Early on in my marriage, I learned it is all too easy to masquerade an accusation as a question. With a harsh tone and a rushed demeanor, the question “Where are my keys?” was really the accusation, “You put my keys somewhere they don’t belong!” With a harsh tone and furrowed brow, the question “Are you mad at me?” was really the accusation, “You have no right to be mad at me!”
Obviously this was not helpful to our marriage. Things only got better when I realized “asking” a question with a negative spirit is the same thing as accusing. I knew better than to just accuse my wife of doing something wrong, but subconsciously it felt more acceptable to phrase my accusation as a question.
In reality, though, the difference between asking and accusing lies not in the phrasing but in the motivation.
The Difference Between Asking and Accusing Is the Motivation
We phrase accusations as questions because we know it’s prideful and rude to accuse, but to ask a question is often seen as humble and thoughtful. But in reality, it doesn’t matter so much how you phrase your question, what matters is why you ask it (or pretend to ask when you are really just accusing).
When the people “asked” Jesus if he was the Son of God, he knew they were actually accusing him of blaspheming God, thus rather than play their game he said, “You say that I am” (Luke 22:70-71). “You say” means Jesus knew their question was really just an accusatory statement.
Jesus knew that when they asked him this question they were actually accusing him through questions. He knew their questions were actually statements because Jesus can see past the presentation and into the motivation of the heart. Why we ask is what makes a statement a real question or a real accusation.
In Luke 22:70-71, we can see that to truly ask a question you must be hoping to find an answer you haven’t already decided in your head. The Jews were asking Jesus if he was the Son of God because they had already decided he was breaking the law.
Jesus didn’t spend time explaining and answering their question because he knew they were not looking to be enlightened. Jesus could have explained the Scriptures, his virgin birth, his miracles, and how he was going to ascend into heaven – all of which would have been evidence of his divinity. He didn’t bother doing this because he knew the Jews had already decided they knew the answers.
Asking Helps Our Relationships. Accusing Hurts Them
God is all too eager to answer our questions, and if we ask a question he knows we cannot understand the answer to, he will gently lead us to humbly accept this. But all too often our questions, unclothed, turn out to be accusations.
It’s good to be inquisitive, humbly kneeling at the feet of Jesus, asking him to reveal the truth to you. But let us not fool ourselves in thinking God (or people) will respond well to our angry accusations we simply put question marks at the end of.
Why did this tragedy happen? Why did you allow me to get divorced? Why did I lose my job? Why do I feel so alone in this world? Why is your Bible so confusing? Why would you send people to hell? Why don’t you reveal yourself in more obvious ways? Questions like these are great to ask but horrible to yell.
Asking hard questions has been one of the most fruitful things in my relationship with God. If you don’t ask questions to God, often times he won’t give you answers. It’s an amazing experience when your mind is so confused with a personal or a theological question that you think could never be answered, but then you ask God in faith to answer it and then he does!
Sadly, many times we don’t ask God hard questions because we lack the faith to believe that he can answer them. God does answer questions (James 1:5), but we won’t find answers (or the peace to handle the unanswerable questions) until we seek God personally.
Asking God a Question Is Approaching Him in Faith. Accusing God Is Approaching Him in Doubt
The great danger is when we pretend like we are asking a question but what we are really doing is questioning God in an accusatory way. Asking a question to God is not the same thing as “questioning God.” Asking a question to God is approaching him in faith. Questioning God is approaching him in doubt, as though you already know God can’t provide an answer to your inflammatory accusation camouflaged with a question mark.
God won’t answer these types of questions because we are not really asking anything. We are just making statements we have already come to believe, and when we are in this state of being it doesn’t matter what God will show us because our minds are made up.
One way to know if we are truly questioning God or accusing him is if we are willing to accept any answer he says is the truth in his word. Questions about gender, marriage, or doctrine have already been answered by God in the Bible. Oftentimes people skip asking God a question and move right to accusations because they already know they will not accept the answer they are going to get.
If we hope to grow in our walk with God, we must never be afraid to ask God hard questions; but we must be very afraid of accusing God in ignorance.
Asking a Question Is Loving. Accusing Is Disrespectful/Unloving
Just as a well placed question can be helpful, an accusation can be equally as damaging in our relationships with God and people.
To give someone the opportunity to share their heart with you or to explain the motivation behind their actions is a great act of love. If your spouse comes to you in a gentle spirit, asking what you meant by a statement that was offensive to him or her, you will feel loved and honored. When your spouse takes the time to really ask you a question they want to know, it shows they love you.
But when “asking” is really “accusing” the opposite is true. If someone never asks you your true intentions but just assumes the worst, this is received as a lack of love. An accusation is a sign that someone is quick to believe your heart is bad, it shows that they believe liars rather than you, and it can show that they simply don’t care enough about you to ask you a question directly.
Therefore, in our relationships with God, spouses, friends, pastors, church members, employees, coworkers, or anyone else we hope to love, we must make sure we know there really is a difference between asking and accusing.