October 21, 2013


One of the oldest responses to unfortunate circumstances is blaming someone, or something, else: “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it,” Adam said to the Lord in Genesis 3:12. In the very next chapter Cain responds to God’s query about Abel with a question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9).

From those first days of man’s existence to today’s headlines, there is a continued effort to dodge personal responsibility when things for which we are responsible go wrong. Yes, circumstances intrude on even the best-planned lives. There is sin in this world, and we’re all victims.

Yet on hearing of too many of today’s despairing headlines, I wait—in vain, usually—for someone to say they are responsible. Too often those caught in dire straits blame this or that circumstance, genetics, an outside influence, or anything but the person they see in the mirror. Like the old Thomas Nast cartoon about a circle of crooked politicians, we each point the finger of blame at the next person.

I’ve been guilty of that attitude, and I’ve repented of it. I’ll probably make that mistake again, and I expect to repent again. I’m human—and so are you, dear reader.

But because we are human, we should be that much more vigilant about this attitude, in ourselves, in our churches, and in our societies. Personal responsibility used to mean something, and it should mean something still. 

Paul tells the believers at Corinth that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Blaming others won’t work at that point; accepting responsibility and repenting when wrong is our best hope.