Two members of an animal protection group were driving home from an anti-hunting rally when they crashed their car into a deer that ran onto the highway. They announced their intent to sue the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, saying that the agency’s efforts to increase the deer population resulted in the deer bounding onto the highway into the path of their car.
An Israeli woman sued a television station for making a weather prediction that turned out to be wrong. As a result of believing the television station’s prediction for fair weather, the woman dressed accordingly. However, she was caught in a rainstorm and shortly thereafter contracted the flu, missed a week of work, and incurred expenses for medication. She blamed the television station for her troubles.
Disclaimer: I have cited the cases above not to say who’s right or who’s wrong, but to note a general trend in our society. That is, it seems that nothing is anybody’s fault anymore! It is no wonder that we have become such a litigious society. Americans file more civil lawsuits than any other industrialized country and are home to eighty percent of the world’s lawyers! More than $250 billion is spent annually playing the “blame game” in America—trying to say that something that happened to me is your fault.
I recognize that many injuries and inconveniences in life are caused by other people. And our court systems should hold the guilty parties responsible. But it seems we have crossed a line. We have taken any and every opportunity to say that something we did was someone else’s fault.
And I also know that life is complicated—and that responsibility is not always a clear, black and white issue. Life is complex and filled with extenuating circumstances, so I am sympathetic to the frustration people experience at times, but there is a time for personal responsibility—especially regarding the sin in our lives.
The Bible is the world’s most honest book. It doesn’t hesitate to expose the efforts of some otherwise good people who find a loophole by blaming others for their sin.
The blaming began in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned, Adam hid from God, blaming God Himself as the reason for his secrecy: “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid [of You] . . . and I hid myself.” Then Adam blamed his eating the forbidden fruit on his wife, Eve (and indirectly on God again): “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” With the spotlight on her, Eve passed the buck to the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:8-13).
It seems as if the Bible wants to make a point: From the very beginning, we see that the human tendency is to avoid responsibility and blame others for our choices and failures—for what the Bible calls sin.
We need to own who we are: saints of God who wrestle with the sinful inclination to blame others and avoid responsibility.
Owning the Blame
Why is it that the simplest things often seem the hardest? Taking responsibility for our actions isn’t easy, but we can do it with three simple words: “I have sinned.”
That exact phrase occurs nineteen times in the Bible. Fortunately, some of the same people I mentioned who at first avoided blame later embraced their actions by saying, “I have sinned.” One of the best examples of these words, and the mindset that motivates it, is the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The young man who demanded his inheritance from his father, then squandered it in profligate living, returned to his father in repentance and said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight” (verse 21).
Why did he suddenly become so responsible after acting so irresponsibly? Because “he came to his senses” (verse 17, NASB, NIV). He looked at the facts and realized it was his greed, his profligacy, and his choices that resulted in his situation. There was no one else to blame but himself. It was simply the right thing to do to tell the truth—the truth that had been obvious to everyone but him.
Owning our sin and our choices is a humble—and humbling—experience. But because God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), we can do it.
David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
As you read Christ Above All, Dr. Jeremiah’s study of Colossians, you’ll come to better know who Jesus is theologically. In other words, the truth about Him—the whole truth and nothing but the truth—will thrill you. Our minds need solid doctrine so we’ll have a solid relationship with Christ, built on personal reverence for Him and friendship with Him.