Personal Responsibility

“It isn’t my fault!” we say. “I’m not to blame!” we insist. So, we find someone or something to blame. We blame our parents, family, friends or enemies. How can we be responsible when our families were so dysfunctional, or our friends so persuasive, or our enemies so capable? We blame our circumstances. The job was too hard, the hill too steep and the sun was in our eyes.

But God is consistently insistent that we take personal responsibility for our actions. He doesn’t play the blame game. He doesn’t allow us to shirk or deflect. Christians are well served, therefore, to be honest about our failures and clear in who is responsible for our decisions.

Exodus 32 unfolds the intriguing story of Aaron who remains with the people while Moses is atop Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments. God keeps Moses on the mountain longer than expected and the people grow restless. They don’t know what has happened to Moses so they foolishly suggest to Aaron that he make “gods” for them to worship. Aaron, however, does not show godly leadership or take personal responsibility for his actions.

Two principles emerge from this sad tale. Learning and applying them can make all the difference in our lives and leadership.

1. We are not responsible for the choices others make but we are vulnerable to their pressure.

Aaron was not in any way responsible for the wrong desires of the people to have gods like all the other nations. It wasn’t his fault that they wanted to turn so quickly from the God who rescued them from slavery.

Nor, by the way, are you responsible for the bad choices others around you have made. You are not responsible for the wrongs of your parents. You are not responsible for the bad things done to you by others. Don’t take that blame.

But you are vulnerable to the pressures that come from these hurts and circumstances. You are vulnerable to the culture around you.

So Aaron did the unthinkable. Instead of standing against the sinful will of the people, he caved. Instead of a courageous defense of God’s will, he crumbled under the pressure. He asked the people for their gold. “He took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf.” (Ex. 32:4)

2. We are responsible for our choices and should not blame them on others or on circumstances.

When God told Moses what the people were doing he was incensed. In his righteous anger he smashed the tablets containing the 10 Commandments. He ground the golden image into dust, poured it over the surrounding water and made the people drink it. Then he turned his attention to Aaron.

What happened that led Aaron to commit such a grave sin? Rather than take responsibility, Aaron blamed. Aaron blamed everyone but himself.

Aaron explained. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil.” (Ex. 32:22) Moses couldn’t expect him to take the blame when the people were obviously the problem!

Aaron continued. “They said to me, ‘Make gods for us who will go before us because this Moses… we don’t know what has happened to him!'” (v. 23) Moses was pretty slow in coming down from that mountain!

And then the kicker. “So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off,’ and they gave it to me. When I threw it into the fire, out came this calf!” (v. 24) Aaron conveniently forgot to mention the engraving tool he fashioned it with. Just, “Out came this calf!”

Personal responsibility says, “I made it.” Blame says, “Out came this calf!” Personal responsibility says, “I made a sinful choice.” Blame says, “I was just minding my own business and then… this cop pulled me over for drunk driving, …my spouse overreacted to what was on the computer, … I found out my bible got left at church two years ago.” Out popped this calf!

God was not confused about responsibility. “The Lord inflicted a plague on the people for what they did with the calf Aaron had made.” (v. 35) Moses knew who was responsible as a leader. “Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control.” (v. 25)

Taking responsibility for the things we are responsible for is the first step in a life of repentance and holiness and leadership and impact. No blame. No “Out popped this calf!” No, “It was their fault”. Just personal responsibility for our choices and sins.

God already knows who is responsible. Do you?


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