Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’


You shall not murder. ~Exodus 20:13

Most of us think we’ve got this command covered because we haven’t murdered anyone.  Unfortunately, Jesus’ clarification in Matthew 5:21-26 deems us all guilty.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. ~Matthew 5:21-26

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a clear picture of what it looks like to murder someone without causing physical death.  To hate someone in your heart, to be angry with someone unreasonably, or to curse them carelessly.

Jesus does not add anything new, he simply explains what the command really means for people who truly belong to him.  Interestingly, he speaks to those who already know well the law – who have these commands read and taught to them every week in the synagogue.  That’s why he begins, “You’ve heard it said…”

In other words, you know this stuff.  You constantly hear and teach it and have from your youth.  This is not new to you.  This has always been true and yet you repeatedly, continuously ignore the deeper truth that you should be teaching to others!

The Jews had a judgement for murder – even for accidental killing had a severe punishment!  So even if I didn’t mean to do it, I still had to pay a huge personal price because my brother’s life is extremely important and I am to treat it as such.  How careful we must be to avoid injuring him!

So even accidents had severe consequences, yet they failed to consider the underlying principles and foundation that this command was laid upon.  The outward emphasis that these religious men had placed upon this (and other) commandments was merely a gloss of piety meant to cover over their inward filth and pet sins against their brothers and sisters.  They therefore prohibited only the sinful act, not the sinful thought process that led up to it.  Jesus sets them straight.

When Jesus speaks of anger being sinful, he defines it as being, “without cause.” In other words, there are some real good reasons – right reasons to be angry.  Remember, this is a man who threw tables in the synagogue.  There is no doubt good reason to exhibit anger against willful rebellion and injurious, exclusive attitudes – especially if they are  continuously occurring within God’s house.

So then, anger is sinful if and when it is not valid.  Matthew Henry says it best:

“Anger is a natural passion; there are cases in which it is lawful and laudable; but it is then sinful, when we are angry without cause.  When is without any just provocation given; either for no cause, or no good cause, or not great and proportional cause; when we are angry upon groundless surmises, or for trivial affronts not worth speaking of; whereas if we are at any time angry, it should be to awaken the offender to repentance, and prevent his doing so again; to clear ourselves and to give warning to others.” 

Furthermore, when we are yelling at our brother calling him a fool as opposed to merely making him aware that he is indeed being foolish in order to convince him of his folly, that is wrong – the latter is right!  It is for his good!  Think of James, Paul, Christ – who speak to their hearers as, “O, vain man,” “You fools,” “O fools, slow of heart…”

Jesus goes on to teach a lesson in urgency.  In utter haste, we ought to be reconciled if another comes to us with a grievance for which we are responsible.  So important is this reconciliation with the one we’ve offended that Jesus forbids offering anything at all to Him until it is done.  We are utterly unfit to come to his altar in worship or sacrifice if we be not willing to reconcile with our brother or sister first.

“From all this it is here inferred, that we ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with all our brethren, and that if at any time a breach happens, we should labor for a reconciliation, by confessing our fault, humbling ourselves to our brother, begging his pardon, and making restitution, or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed, according as the nature of the thing is; and that we should do this quickly for two reasons: 1. Because, till this be done, we are utterly unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances and 2. Because, till this be done, we lie exposed to much danger.  It is at our peril if we do not labor after an agreement, and that quickly…” Matthew Henry

Therefore, we see that, according to Our Lord, we are responsible not only to avoid causing physical injury and death to others, but emotional, spiritual, and all personal injury as well.

There is a time for everything – including anger, yet in it, we must not sin.


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Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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Five days of provision had gone by.  The manna fell faithfully as God’s people continued to rebel.  Moses was mad over their stubbornness, disobedience, and unbelief.

When the sixth day came, they gathered twice as much manna.  Apparently, they had some knowledge at this time about a Sabbath rest – even before the law was given or Moses had specifically instructed them.  It wasn’t until after they had gathered twice as much bread on the sixth day that Moses gave the formal instructions on what to do on the sixth and seventh days.

“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” ~Exodus 16:23

Do you think these people listened?  Do these people ever listen?  No.  They wanted more.  More, more, more, more, more!  God was literally raining food down upon them every single day.  Are they happy?  No.  They are faithless.  They disobey in an effort to control.  They want more than God is giving.  In their pride, they usurp God in their efforts to store up and provide for themselves.  It is outrageous.

Do you want to know what is even more outrageous?  What is even more outrageous is who God blames for it.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?…” ~Exodus 16:28

The Lord indicts Moses.  MOSES!!!

Moses was not disobeying.  Moses wasn’t rebelling or failing to believe and trust God.  Moses was doing everything he could to minister to these rebels.  Moses was speaking the very words of God and praying in faith that they would believe and obey.  How in the world does Moses get the blame?!

“Why did he say this to Moses?  He was not disobedient.  No, but he was the ruler of a disobedient people, and God charges it upon him that he might the more warmly charge it upon them, and might take care that their disobedience should not be through any neglect or default of his.” ~Matthew Henry

Moses was the leader of a disobedient people.  The responsibility is great when you are a leader in any capacity.  When you are a leader of an expressly disobedient and rebellious clan, the responsibility is greater still.  God is not in the business of overlooking sin without first having that thing examined carefully.  He brings correction and calls the guilty to account.  Judgement begins at the house of the Lord and God’s discipline works from the top, down, always.  The reason is because God is just and he will not have the unjust ruling in his stead.  If you want to lead God’s people, you best be prepared, not only to examine yourself, but to be thoroughly examined yourself.

It is interesting that we never see Moses arguing with God in this passage.  There is no mention of Moses’ innocence.  Moses never says, “Wait a minute, Lord, didn’t you see me resting?  Didn’t you see me trusting?  Didn’t you see me angry at the disobedience taking place in front of me?  Aren’t we homies?  Haven’t I obeyed?  What’s the deal?”

Perhaps the reason Moses never states his case is because he understands that a lack of clear and fitting correction when those closest to as well as underneath his jurisdiction were blatantly disobedient to God, that it was just as much his fault and responsibility to act; to speak; to correct; to admonish and he had not done so.

I don’t know.  What I do know is that if I were Moses and I felt completely and altogether innocent, I would have at least said so.  Moses never does.  Maybe that’s why he is often remembered as such an angry man.  Just sayin’.

Moses was, by all appearances, innocent in this instance, but God indicted him.  The seriousness of sin in those directly related to and in close communion with a leader of God’s people is very great.  For this reason, judgement falls first on the leader – despite his innocence – for a matter of principle established by God.  God did as much to his own son.  If a man would seek to bring salvation to a disobedient and rebellious people on behalf of God, he must both understand and accept the principle of owning blame that belongs not to himself.  This is the example we see here in Exodus 16:28.  This is the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Would you take the place of the guilty?  Your Savior did.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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I have never been a helicopter mom.  I am more of a fly the helicopter yourself and I’ll be here watching just in case you crash it mom.  Whatever the polar opposite of overprotective is, that is what I am.  Free range mom, maybe?  I’m not sure what the proper term is these days.

Anyway, most moms worry too much.  If I could be accused of anything, it would likely be not worrying enough.  I give my kids a lot of responsibility – probably too much – and I hope for the best.  I believe there are but three building blocks in childhood education: reading, respect, and responsibility.  Of course there is the overarching foundation of spiritual truths which hold it all together.  Teach these things and you have a fighting chance of producing a respectful, responsible adult.  At least that’s my philosophy and my goal.

The truth is, our children generally become what we are – at least partly.

In one week I will begin the ninth month of my fourth pregnancy – an unlikely pregnancy, that is.  One that I’ve prayed and waited for.  One that was never supposed to be.

Nevertheless, here I stand right smack dab in the middle of God’s grace.  Still, I am apt to fear – free ranger and all.  Like I said, I am not one much for worry and I tend not to dwell on things out of my hands.  When it comes to a child – especially one never thought possible and nothing short of a miracle – the what if’s and the waiting sometimes seem to creep in, find a comfortable seat in the psyche, and overwhelm.

I have had three healthy pregnancies, three uncomplicated labors, and three beautifully healthy babies.  I guess I expected the same this time around.  But from thyroid issues to a (false?) positive birth defect screening to carpel tunnel to gestational diabetes – oh and let’s not forget that 70 pound weight gain – this one hasn’t been so non-eventful.  I find myself repeating the words of the physician’s assistant in my mind.

“The blood work you have five weeks ago showed your sugar was abnormally high.  Someone should have told you before this.  It’s hard to tell how long you’ve had gestational diabetes.  There is a chance the baby could be stillborn.  She may have undeveloped lungs and breathing problems.  She could be too large for natural delivery…”

While I still believe these things are unlikely, I find myself bracing for the worst.  I ask my husband my what if questions.  He quickly responds, “Whatever the Lord’s will is is good.  It will be ok.”

“Easy for him to say,” I think to myself, “He hasn’t carried this baby.  He hasn’t longed for her for years like me.  He probably doesn’t really understand.”  And in all my sinful worry, I fail to hear the truth.  I know he is right, but I am afraid of what his rightness might turn out looking like.  I am afraid to hope.  I don’t want to be surprised by the worst.  I want to be prepared.  I don’t want to be disappointed.  What I really want is control – control over circumstances in which I have no control.  I want to be sovereign.  I want to be god over my own life.  I know that cannot happen.  Even in all my non-policing mom-ish-ness, I am restless; agitated; fearful; faithless.

I need to pray.  Instead I pace.  I get up to write.  I lay down to rest.  I exercise.  I avoid.  Where is peace?  Generally I walk alone, but today I wake the mechanic and ask him to walk with me.  He gets up early and walks with me in the pouring rain.  His small talk calms me.  His willingness to sacrifice for me resets my thoughts.  His selfless love reflects my Savior’s and I rest.  He prays with me and I see Christ.  I lean on his faith and confidence in God’s will.  It is love that causes me to cease from sinful worry and unhelpful anxiety.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

Take note exasperated husbands and helicopter moms, herein lies peace.  Therefore, walk together.

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I’m not sure when it happened.  I guess it was probably around the time pampering parents started placing pointed fingers at professors for their children’s poor grades and convicts started pleading insanity to excuse their criminal activities.  Somehow, somewhere between big government and little man lawyers, our culture turned onto a continuous road to perdition.  In the here and now, unrelated people police one another out of sheer fear that they will be held responsible for your poor choices.

A few weeks ago I signed up for a triathlon.  On my application, I requested an end swim lane, noting that I am pregnant and needed to use the ladder instead of pulling myself up and climbing out of the pool.  I was met with a phone call asking for a doctor’s permission slip.  “I signed a waiver.  Aren’t I responsible for myself if something happens to me?”  “You’re pregnant.”

I am.  I confess.  I am five and a half months pregnant.  I am also a ten year veteran triathlete.  I’ve been pregnant four times now.  And, yes, I’ll even admit I am a bit of a risk taker.  I don’t recommend triathlons to pregnant women who have not practiced a high level of fitness before pregnancy or have risks associated with childbearing.  I do have a keen sense about what’s going on with myself physically, though, and I can assure anyone who doubts my dire concern for my unborn child (when did we stop calling unborn children “babies” by the way?) that if any issue before, during, or after this endeavor would arise, I would know well enough to stop and rest – or, if need be, quit altogether.

So, to the, “You’re pregnant.” comment, I simply replied, “I know.  I’m pregnant, not dead.  I don’t have a disease, but I bet others participating do.  Are they being screened, too?  Is everyone getting a wellness check requiring a permission slip or is it just me?”

I understand the issue.  Really, I do.  I’m not trying to be disrespectful or difficult, but when common sense goes out the window, I cannot stay silent.  No one wants to get sued by a disgruntled pregnant lady who should have been on the couch instead of exercising for two hours.  But the truth is, right or wrong, that’s her prerogative.  The outcome is, last time I checked, still her responsibility.  Not her doctor’s.  Not her friend’s.  And certainly not the triathlon police’s.

At what point in this country did it become my neighbor’s job to determine whether or not my dog should be tied outside?  My kids are old enough to be left alone?  My family can go on vacation for a week and be out of school?   My firearm can be taken into the coffee shop?  My state’s vintage flag can be flown in my yard?  My child needs a vaccine?  Since when is it your job to tell me what’s best for me and my family without knowing us and, in turn, make laws, rules, and stipulations forbidding our freedom to choose what we deem best for ourselves?

It’s all absurd if you ask me.  Our culture is one where my 11 year old can get an IUD placed without my permission or knowledge but cannot stay home alone for fear of a neighbor calling Children and Youth Services.  We have slid down a schizophrenic slope running on fear, tyranny, and selfish self-preservation.  We used to have a country grounded in courage, freedom, and preserving the pursuit of happiness at all costs.

After some discussion on the matter, I was allowed to participate in the race.  All is well is Loriland again.  And I, uneventfully, finished.

Unfortunately, this policing our neighbors norm is the world we live in.  It is a world where indecent people abdicate personal responsibility and leaders fear for their livelihood because of a corrupt legal system who encourages and rewards the indecent and irresponsible to be just that.  The corruption coupled with the culture of entitlement are virtually ubiquitous.

The solution?  You and me.  Take responsibility for yourself.  Don’t blame others when things go wrong.  Raise your kids with only three goals – reading, respect, and responsibility.  Like the saying goes, “Good people are everywhere.  If you cant’ find one, be one.”

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My oldest child just turned 10 years old.  Imaginative as she is creative, I rarely have to offer ideas on, well, much of anything.  She is always coming up with things I would never think of to make and do.  I am continually surprised by her unique ambitions and initiatives.

Just when I’m amazed that she got up and made us all breakfast, on her own, without burning the house down, I find perfect heart-shaped cheese gracing my eggs.  By the time I realize she has taught herself how to knit from youtube videos, I receive a home made scarf and she tells me she’s made one for her friend, too.  I bought her a rainbow loom and she followed a likely 807 step video that someone produced rubber band made Elsa, our dog, an owl, a unicorn for her sister, flowers, etc.  She can hang with Bob Ross and she wishes someone would just let her teach a paint and sip already.

Needless to say, birthdays are always interesting.  When she was 6 or 7, she wanted an Asian party.  We ate Chinese food, she wore a kimono, taught origami to her friends, and insisted the cake be written with characters rather than letters.  Another time we had a karaoke party.  This year she said she just wanted to shop with her friends.

Ok, daughter.  How do I give you a shopping birthday?  I guess we go to the “big mall” (as she calls it) and spend Daddy’s money.  Yeah, so this is definitely something I would have picked if I were thinking outside the box when I was 10.

Let me just tell you some things about our shopping birthday party, folks.  It was not really what I expected.

Mia brought two friends along with us.  The first place we stopped was at the convenient store.  Daddy just couldn’t wait to hand them a $100 bill and tell them to, “Get whatever you want.”

Do you know what we walked out with?  Three slushies – one for each girl.  That is all.  No piles of candy.  No goofy key chains or celebrity inspired sunglasses.  Not even a bag of Doritos.  “Weird,” I thought.

On to the mall.  As surprised as I was about the one slushie each episode, I was even more surprised that their self-control continued throughout the entire trip.  They bought a few necklaces and bracelets at the novelty store, always carefully checking prices.  Mia bought flower ribbons for her hair and a bracelet for her sister.  When the cashier told them they were being given free pearl-like necklaces with their purchases, the girls immediately announced how happy they were to have something to give to Mom for Mother’s Day.

They looked around some more.  They spent forever in “Justice.”  Mia wanted a canopy to put over her  bed.  When I told her it wouldn’t work with her top bunk, she didn’t whine or argue.  She looked around some more.  All in all, they really only bought a very few small things.  They were more excited to see Bath and Body Works and look for more things their moms might like.

We ate too spicy Chinese and the girls got overpriced pedicures before we left.

I realized that my 10 year old and her friends are more mature than I gave them credit for.  Somewhere along this short way, these girls have learned to self govern.  Growing up in a world full of adults and children who grossly lack this skill, I am thankful.  They have respect, responsibility, and regard for others.  Where I thought they would be greedy, they were thoughtful.  Where I thought they would be out of control, they were self-controlled.  If I am honest, I don’t think I’d split my birthday money among my friends.  I’m pretty certain I’d choose to shop alone!  I guess Mia gets the generous gene from her Dad.

There really never is a dull moment with Mia.  There never has been.  She is always full of fun surprises.  I couldn’t be more proud of the one who called me “Mommy” first.

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“It’s not spelling, it’s writing!”

“It’s not math, it’s language!”

These are the type of emphatic statements my daughter makes when I correct her school papers.  She does not understand why I mark spelling wrong on her penmanship homework.  She doesn’t get it when I tell her about how she wrote her “5” backwards when she numbered her language quiz.  She thinks each subject should remain separate.  At 9, she has learned to compartmentalize her life in such a way that she feels comfortable justifying error.  She can now enjoy the benefits of avoiding personal responsibility, refuse helpful accountability, and ignore necessary correction – at least in as much as she can continue to convince herself that it is perfectly safe to live life in sordid, unconnected, error-filled pieces.  

I guess spelling, penmanship, math, and language are going to have to wait.  This lesson is far too important to sidestep.  I need a divine lesson plan straight from the Almighty.  As far as teachable moments go for the week, this is it.  I can’t afford to fumble.  

I spend the next five minutes trying to explain how every part of her life is a piece of her puzzle.  I tell her everything must fit together if she wants the best outcomes.  I feel desperately inadequate as we close our studies for the day.  I look to my Father for help giving a less insufficient answer and I ask him to show me how to help her.

What I find is myself standing in utter need, waste deep in confession, and at the mercy of mercy itself.  How many times have I said in my heart things like, “It’s not church, it’s a picnic.”  “It’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday night.”  “It isn’t right, but I’m not wrong because this part of my life has nothing to do with that one.”

That one.  You know, that part which holds it all together; the centrality of all of life; the big picture creator; the weaver of this great tapestry; the one golden thread running through the whole of it all.  The subject?  Jesus Christ.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

He holds all things together.  Every piece of our lives belongs to him.  There is not one about which we have the liberty to say, “This isn’t Christianity, it’s recreation.”  “This isn’t about Jesus, it’s about me.”  “This isn’t religion, it’s work.”  “This isn’t God’s business it’s mine.”  No.  None of that holds water at the end of the day and we all know it.

We know that if Christ is not welcome at work or play or in the recesses of our own hearts and minds at any given moment – if we relegate him to any specific areas and leave him there – nothing will ever fit together properly.  The pieces of our lives will simply never match.  The practice of compartmentalizing our Christianity means spiritual slumber, carnal living, and abdication of personal responsibility.  A compartmentalized Christian repeatedly refuses helpful accountability and ignores necessary correction.  The Bible calls that person a fool.  

A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)

Little wonder why it also warns parents that folly itself is indeed bound up – tied in knots; holding captive; intertwined to a serious and dangerous degree – in the hearts of our children.  We must teach them his ways if we want them to lead righteous lives.  

The problem then becomes us.  We cannot teach what we do not know.  We cannot teach what we do not do.  If our lives are separated by subject, our children will never learn integrity, consistency, faithfulness, or sacrifice.  They will learn, however.  They will learn hypocrisy, abdication, irresponsibility, and self-righteous self-defense.

iF u dOnn’T blevE me, teSt mY werDs?

Go ahead and try to pretend you don’t need reading to do math or language to write.  You will end up like a professor of faith who acts as if he does not need God at work; play; in relationships; etc.  A sayer who cannot, by mere virtue of his own bad theology, be a doer of any good thing.  

Lord, let me not be foolish!  Every compartment of my life must include you.  


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