If you’re a parent like me, there’s a word that gets repeated in your home daily. Most children don’t like it very much, but it’s something they need to learn – not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the rest of society. It’s a word that – even though we can’t always agree on its meaning – we all agree on its importance.
What’s the word? RESPONSIBILITY
(cue the high pitched shriek in the background)
responsible: ‘answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management’
A child who makes a mistake and owns up to it is not a problem. No matter what the problem is, it can usually be fixed easily once it’s been identified and owned up to. That is what responsibility means.
The problem is when the child makes a mistake and then denies it, or makes excuses or blames others. That child is much less likely to change his behavior, regardless of the consequences. Why? Because he’s never fully taken responsibility for his choices. He sees them as someone else’s fault or the fault of circumstances.
How often do we behave towards God in the very same manner in which we try to teach our kids NOT to behave?
We teach our kids to say sorry when they make a mistake. We teach them to take responsibility over their errors. We teach them not to blame others and make excuses. But when it comes to our spiritual life, we often do the exact opposite. How many times have we said
“God, I know I shouldn’t have, but the pressure was too much…”
“I didn’t want to do it, but I just didn’t have a choice…”
“It’s not my fault; it’s just because of the circumstances in my life right now…”
Denying responsibility isn't anything new. It started back in the Garden of Eden, when God caught Adam and Eve red-handed in sin. What did they do?
Adam started the excuses with “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12)
Then Eve joined in the blame game with: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:14)
Not much has changed over the years has it? It’s my wife's fault… it's my husband's fault… it's my parents' fault… it's my children's fault… it's society's fault… it's because of the people who wronged me… it's because of my boss… my job… my church. IT’S SOMEONE’S FAULT, NOT MINE!
As long as we deny our responsibility for our sin, there can be no healing from it.
I believe our Heavenly Parent is just as tired of excuses as we earthly parents are. He wants to give us healing from our sin, but He knows that that can’t happen until we first take ownership.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we see a great model of responsibility. After leaving his father’s home and wasting his money, the boy finds himself at rock bottom. He lost everything – his home, his money, his dignity, everything!
Who’s to blame? Who’s at fault here?
I love what he says in Luke 15:18-19 “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
Now that’s responsibility! There’s a boy who didn’t make excuses or blame anyone. He took ownership of his sin, declared it to God and then to his dad (both confessions are essential), and because of that, he found healing. He was restored to his father’s house and received a new life that very same day. Why? Because he owned up to his mistake and took responsibility for it.
For you, there's not going to be any healing, any answers, any restoration, any peace until you finally say, "I'm responsible." Maybe you're not responsible for the whole problem – maybe there’s some things that are outside of your control. But at least you can take responsibility for the part of the problem that is under your control. You’re not as helpless as you may think here.
That may mean a letter you need to write, a call, a visit you need to make, an apology, a confession you need to give, a bitterness or a grudge that you need to release. I know it's hard, but it's the only way something broken in your life has a chance of getting fixed.
For discussion: what step does God want you to take today to start living more responsibly?