Anchoring the Ship: Responsibility 2 Samuel 24: 18-25

A real-life story of a politician turning down a legal gift from a constituent because it wasn’t ethical or proper, go figure!  In this case, it is hard to grasp why God considers the census David ordered to be presumptuous, thus a sin.  It is even more difficult to understand God’s unexplained anger toward the people who caused a plague on the kingdom.  The other account of this same story in 1 Chronicles doesn’t clear things up.  It portrays Satan as the agitator; proving how ambiguous evil is and how hard it is for any of us to say for sure what makes us do the things we do.

To blame God or the devil misses the point of responsibility.  We’re not dupes of Satan or puppets of God.  Our actions are not the direct results of divine or demonic whim, which we’ve no power to resist.  We’re not predetermined to sin because it’s in our genes, even if our inherited nature begs us.  All of us are capable of doing right and being good.  The fact we do not because of our sinful nature doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for our actions.  It means we must depend more upon God to aid us.

David takes responsibility.  Counsel would’ve advised use the passive voice, “Yes, there were mistakes, but the king isn’t fully responsible, some of this is the responsibility of others.”  Typical doublespeak: mistakes were made, but nobody made a mistake.  To David’s credit he understands he is the king.  If evil befalls because of his presumption, then he must step up to the altar and offer himself to God for the sake of the people and the peace.

David goes to Araunah, the Jebusite, to buy his threshing floor, so he can build an altar to God, making the needed sacrifices to cover Israel’s sin.  Araunah makes him a better offer; giving him the threshing floor and any animal or materials needed.  David refuses no matter how expedient; for his sense and spirit of personal responsibility knows the difference between an altar paid in full and free altar.  David knew God was more interested in right sacrifice than a well-cooked bull served on a convenient altar.

It has been said, “Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principles are good things corrupted by the absence of responsibility.”  Segregating ourselves from full and personal responsibility by choosing the easiest way is a slippery slope.  Full and personal responsibility, which refuses to let anyone do our part, must anchor all endeavors on the FUMC mother ship.

Tax-payers aren’t angry with people who need welfare because disability or dire straits prevents them from working.  People are upset at those who prefer collecting from others rather than earning for themselves.  Working people aren’t in a rage over people who make lots of money.  They’re hostile at persons who use position to acquire information or influence to avoid certain costs others have to pay.  Healing could take place in our land if we are able to recapture David’s sense of personal responsibility.

Responsibility believes we have a part in every relationship.  Irresponsibility has a sinister effect of dragging others down.  If David had accepted the offer; he would not be able to hold his subjects responsible.  They could say, “I found another person to satisfy my responsibility.”  There wouldn’t be any difference between what he could have done and what they might do.  A person’s action effects everyone else.  Failure to be responsible for our part causes others to be responsible for ours and their part too.

Irresponsibility brings on a fatigue that breeds greater irresponsibility.  For example, when persons with clout, wealth, and good lawyers aren’t held fully responsible, others think they can live above the law.  Our common complaint of having to pay extra because someone previously took advantage of a situation illustrates how interconnected we are, and how unfair and wrong it is for others to carry the load shunned.  Each one of us has a responsibility to carry in every relationship and endeavor.

This is true in a marriage.  It is wrong for a partner to carry an undue portion of the emotional load of their relationship; becoming the sacrificial spouse, while, the other spouse has little emotional investment.  Soon, a breaking point will come as symptoms surface that point to a family out of balance.  The first symptom the public may see is a divorce filing.  It may look as if the spouse who files is abandoning the marriage for selfish reasons, thus igniting a great amount of undue sympathy on the one being left.  Reality is, the one being left stopped taking responsibility years ago, effectively ending the marriage then.  One person’s actions can affect everyone else, regardless how responsible other members may be.

Two men meet passing on a bridge.  One man has a rope and begs the other man to hold the end of rope.  The man agrees.  The other man ties his end of the rope around his waist and jumps off the bridge.  The startled man left on the bridge strains under the weight of holding up the dangling man.  “What are you doing down there.” he calls to the manDon’t worry, just hold on,” the man dangling says.  The noble man holds on.

Moments pass and the dangling man does not move.  The Good Samaritan says “Hey, what are you going to do?”  The man thanks him, and tells him how great he is to help him out.  Finally, the guy has had enough as his arms are breaking under the strain; besides he has places to be.  He yells in desperation, “I can’t hold you any longer; you’re going to have to climb up here and let me go my way.”  The dangling man screams, “You have to hold on because you have my life in your hands, I’m depending on you.

The man on the bridge considers the gravity of the situation in light of the gravity of the man on the rope.  He yells, “I am going to count to three, and if you don’t climb up here, I will let go of the rope.  “One” the man said.  “No you can’t, please.”  “Two,” said the man holding the rope.  “Wait, if you drop me, I will die.  You will have blood on your hands.  Don’t do it you will be sorry.”  “Three! And he let’s go.  “You killed me!  Who is responsible?

Sorting out exactly who is responsible for what is sometimes difficult.  We cannot avoid the question of responsibility because of its complexity.  We must ask questions like: Who’s responsible for telling the good news to our community-the pastor and a few old saints?  Or, is it each of us; sharing Christ’s love among neighbors and in our workplaces?  Who’s responsible for the creative endeavors that make disciples who transform the world-a few dedicated servants who are doing the best they can, keeping the same things going because that is all they have time in a week?  Or, is it each of us; initiating new things for new people?  Who’s responsible to fund the work of the church-those who faithfully give year after year to cover costs?  Or, is it each of us who benefits from the ministry of this place?

There are many people who are willing to be Araunah and let others off the responsibility hook.  May we like David say, “I will not offer sacrifices to God which costs nothing.”  We’re not talking about taking up responsibility and being a missionary or preacher.  We’re speaking of average persons who are willing to hold a hand, swing a hammer, tutor a child, or start a class or ministry that fills a niche or meets a need.  These are just some of the ways of saying “I will not offer a sacrifice that costs me nothing.”  No one should have to be responsible for another person’s responsibility.

There is always the tension between grace and responsibility.  There are people who have been standing on the bridge for a long time, holding the rope.  Hear the word of grace that God’s acceptance of you isn’t the result of taking on greater responsibility.  We thank God the grace of God has spurred you into faithful responsibility.  There are others who are dangling on the end of the rope that need to hear God’s word of grace that motivates.  Grace makes no sense unless it encourages and breeds responsibility.  The way to activate grace in our lives is to take our share of the responsibility; knowing we have offered to God that which costs us something.  The joy of sailing on the Mother Ship comes in giving life away graciously by doing our part; holding on to the anchor of responsibility.

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Published in: on August 26, 2012 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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