What is Responsibility?

Responsibility is defined as “the state of being accountable or answerable, as for a trust or office, or for a debt.  It is used in the plural; as heavy responsibilities.”

There is a story told about Mr. Brown who was a worker in a health care facility in the state of Georgia.

Brown once worked in a hospital where a patient knocked over a cup of water, which spilled on the floor beside the patient’s bed. The patient was afraid he might slip on the water if he got out of the bed, so he asked a nurses’ aide to mop it up. The patient didn’t know it, but the hospital policy said that small spills were the responsibility of the nurse’s aides while large spills were to be mopped up by the hospital’s housekeeping group.

The nurse’s aide decided the spill was a large one, and she called the housekeeping department. A housekeeper arrived and declared the spill a small one. An argument followed.

“It’s not my responsibility,” said the nurse’s aide, “because it’s a large puddle.” The housekeeper did not agree. “Well, it’s not mine,” she said, “the puddle is too small.”

The exasperated patient listened for a time, then took a pitcher of water from his night table and poured the whole thing on the floor. “Is that a big enough puddle for you two to decide?” he asked. It was, and that was the end of the argument.

What was the problem?  Neither person wanted to take responsibility to do the job.  This is a growing problem that I am finding with the youth of America.  We are raising a generation that has been “babied” and taught not to make a decision and not to take responsibility for their actions.

As a pastor, I have often used funny lawsuits in our society to add some humor at the beginning of a message, but what I am finding is that many of our parents will do the same silly, deflecting excuse-making when confronted with their teenager’s problem.  What can we do as parents, pastors, and youth pastors to work at overcoming this tragic trend?

Looking at Scripture, you find many instances where someone tried to shift the blame.

  1. Adam

“And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.  And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?  And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.  And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:9-12).

  1. Aaron

“And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.   And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.  For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.  And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf”  (Exodus 32:19-24).

In both of these Biblical examples, we will find that shifting the blame limited their spiritual life.  We must start requiring personal responsibility.  We must stop allowing ourselves and teenagers to make excuses.  I have noticed that when dealing with a parent, they will readily admit how bad all of the other teens are in the youth group and even suggest restriction of contact between their teen and these other worldly teenagers.  However, when it is suggested that maybe their teenagers could be wrong, or worldly, the conversation is over.

One of the most amazing examples of God’s mercy is found in the life of David.

“And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:   And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul” (II Samuel 12:5-7).

“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (II Samuel 12:13).

I believe God blessed David because he was willing to take personal responsibility for his actions.


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