The Buck Stops Where?

buckstops_bigAfter a city-owned dump truck smashed his car, Curtis Gokey decided to sue the town to have his car fixed. Gokey headed to the town seeking $3,600 in damages, but he was forced to admit that he was at fault in the accident. Curtis Gokey wasn’t just the victim. He was also the town employee driving the dump truck!

The city denied his claim and the courts rejected his suit because it is nonsensical to sue yourself. Gokey wasn’t one to be deterred, though. Shortly after his initial rejections, his wife tried her luck at filing a suit. The town has successfully argued that since she’s married to him, therefore she can’t sue him.

I’m not a lawyer. I can’t speak intelligently about the legal merits or how this situation should work, but it feels a lot like someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions–even when they were accidental.

Humankind has a tendency to pass the buck. When, in Eden, God questioned Adam about his sin, he pointed his finger at Eve who pointed her finger at the Serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). After Aaron helped Israel construct a golden calf while Moses was on Sinai, he quickly shifted the blame to “those” people (Exodus 32:22-24).

It’s an alluring temptation: if I can shift responsibility for my errors onto someone else, I can avoid the pain and the consequences that come my way. Our society excels at blame-shifting. I’m the way I am because of my parents, my environment, my third grade teacher…we’ll pass blame to anyone or anything—except our own decision-making.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Both men and women ought to face more fully the things they do or cause to be done; face them or leave off doing them.” Proverbs says, “whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsake them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Want to be more successful in 2016? Decide that “the buck stops here” and reject the blame game.

About Jesus

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

I love this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Notice how it begins. When Paul wants us to get our act together and change our attitudes and actions, he begins with Jesus. “Be like Jesus!” he says, and then tells us about Jesus.

Did you notice which attributes of Jesus that he calls our attention to?

Sacrifice. Jesus “emptied himself” of a thing he was fully entitled to—his equality with God. He could have called, you remember, ten thousand angels, but he did not. Jesus didn’t take advantage of every right entitled to him. Unfortunately we often miss this example—as our entitlement mentalities clamor for things we don’t deserve. Have you sacrificed anything for your faith lately, or is that off limits?

Service. Most of us don’t mind being servants until we’re treated like one. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He didn’t do favors for friends who would return them. He healed thankless lepers, preached to confused sinners, and walked through life generally unappreciated for who he really was (see #1, by the way!). Jesus’ attitude of service needs to pervade our lives. “How can I help you?” is a phrase that should typify Christ-followers. Who have you served this week?

Submission. Verse 8 says that Jesus became obedient even to death. Jesus willingly submits to the Father, yet we tend to balk at authority figures. Ephesians 5:21 says that Christians are to submit to one another because of our reverence for Jesus. The judge of the universe submitted himself to the unfair judgment of Pilate. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but Jesus hasn’t asked us to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.

Sacrifice, service, and submission: it is the attitude of Jesus in a capsule. We’ll never match his perfect example, but how do we compare when we look into the mirror of our hearts?

Holiday Values: Rest

rest“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:1-3)

Have you ever wondered why God rested?

He wasn’t tired from the work of creating the universe. “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:28)

So why did he do it? The Bible doesn’t answer this question directly, but when Jesus was questioned about his Sabbath practices, he answered, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28) The Sabbath was made for man’s benefit—not God’s.

God knew how important it would be to give us mortals a time to pause, rest, reflect, and worship. There were no exceptions to the Sabbath law. It was for the rich and the poor alike. Sabbath was a weekly reset that reminded finite humans of our dependence on our infinite creator. God ordained many special occasions in the Old Testament: Passover, Feast of Booths, Pentecost, and many others. These interrupted the flow of normal life to remind people to trust the power of God.

I know that Christmas and New Year’s aren’t divinely-mandated days, but the idea of taking a day off to rest and reflect is God’s invention and instruction. Whatever your family’s custom is this time of year, make sure you remember who came up with the idea.