The Leader

2.3 Take Responsibility

From the book Biblical Manhood
By Joel Hilliker

If you are anything like the average modern man, you do not want to take responsibility. You might be interested in getting results or receiving credit, but taking responsibility is a no-win situation. It’s better to avoid responsibility: You might not get any credit, but you also won’t get any blame—and you don’t have to do all the hard work.

This is not only a modern phenomenon. Men have been trying to wriggle out of responsibility ever since God asked Adam a direct question: “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

Almost 6,000 years of excusing, covering, evading, shirking, shrugging and rationalizing later, men have elevated avoiding responsibility to an art form. Today, even in the most prosperous and free nations on the planet, you have a kaleidoscope of options for shifting responsibility for your choices. You can even take college courses designed to help you do so. You can blame your parents, your socioeconomic status, your schooling, your boss, your friends, big banks, corporate greed, racism, special-interest groups, self-serving politicians, whatever suits you.

This is the dominant attitude in a world ruled by Satan. Why? Because he has never accepted responsibility for his own failures. He blames everything on God Himself!

Men: Take responsibility.

Stop making excuses. Accept the fact that your life is your responsibility.

Put Away Childish Things

What happens if you go through life focusing on what you don’t have? If you focus on what other people aren’t doing for you? If you never take responsibility for yourself? What happens is that you never mature. You become stuck thinking like a child. In some form, you forfeit responsibility for your life to someone else.

As a newborn, you need someone else to do everything for you. Growing up means taking on one responsibility after another: going to the bathroom yourself, dressing yourself, doing chores, going to school, finishing your homework, driving a car, getting a job, marrying a wife and having a child of your own. You end up being the one with all the responsibility.

One of the major determinants of a man’s maturity is how much he embraces responsibility. A responsible 16-year-old can be more mature than an irresponsible 40-year-old. This process is a journey that moves you from being taken care of to taking care of yourself and others.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child,” the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

The man who believes society owes him a comfortable living is still thinking like a child. The man who grouses about how unfair the world is, and who says riches and privilege are just a matter of luck, still thinks like a child. The man whose failures are always someone else’s fault is stuck in childish thinking. The man with no ambition, who is content to live off his parents’ largesse or a government handout rather than applying himself and building character, still speaks and understands as a child. The man who is more focused on what the world should do for him than on what he can contribute to those around him is not yet thinking like a man. The man who sinks significant time into worthless, selfish pursuits like video games, superhero movies, comic books, partying or chasing women, has not yet put away childish things.

Maturing means that you grow from deflecting blame to accepting responsibility. You grow from being a passive observer to an initiator. You grow from being a victim to being a doer. You grow from expecting things to providing things. You grow from following to leading.

Becoming a man means taking hold of your God-given power to direct your own life, to overcome mediocrity, to welcome challenge, to surmount obstacles, to achieve victories.

The Power to Choose

God created your brain and your mind. With it, He has given you an amazing power: the power not only of thought but of free choice. He has also revealed in His Word how to make right choices that lead to abundant life. Now He leaves the choice, and its inherent responsibility, up to you.

This is extraordinary. If God only wanted peace, He wouldn’t have created human beings in the first place, or He would have programmed human minds to do the right thing every time. He could have made humans like nice pets: A pet is enjoyable to have around, always friendly, and it does not keep you up at night trying to figure out how to help it make better choices in life.

But God isn’t interested in that. He wants a family: sons who have voluntarily chosen to live the blessed, productive, exciting and thrilling way of love that He Himself lives.

As a human being, you can’t not choose. God makes this clear in Deuteronomy 30:11-20. There He reveals the only two alternatives: obedience or disobedience. Obedience brings blessings; disobedience brings curses. You might want to ignore the choice; you might want to do a bit of both; you might want to remain “neutral.” God says there is no such thing. There are only two alternatives, and you must choose. And because you’re the one who chooses, you’re the one who receives the consequences.

God gave Adam two trees to choose from, and Adam had to make a decision. He made his choice, then tried to wriggle out of the consequences. Before he even answered God’s direct question, he blamed his wife and then even God Himself for his decision (Genesis 3:12).

Men always want to make excuses. God exposes those excuses for what they are: illusions. Men cannot avoid consequences for their decisions any more than they can avoid making decisions. Men who ignore God and make wrong choices always have an excuse at the ready. But God is clear in Romans 1:20: Those who reject the truth “are without excuse.”

Don’t run away from this reality. God has given you an awesome power: the power to choose—the power to take responsibility, to mature into a better, more powerful, more fulfilled man—the power to steer your life toward success!

Bear Your Own Burden

Is God hard because He wants us to bear our own responsibility? No! He is a loving Father who wants to help us grow up into better, greater, more fulfilling, more meaningful lives.

Shrugging off personal responsibility is not a luxury, it’s a trap. It is like sleepwalking into a pit. If you insist that your problems are someone else’s responsibility, what can you do about it? Nothing! You just have to wait for someone else or some other force beyond your control to come along and pull you out. You waste your time languishing in dissatisfaction, waiting for that magic moment, that pandering politician, that figurative lottery ticket. As long as you blame other people, you are trapped.

Of course the actions of other people do affect you, but don’t deceive yourself. You are responsible for your own life, including its mediocrity and its failures. “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you will bear it alone” (Proverbs 9:12; nkjv).

“Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live,” God writes in Ezekiel 18:19-20. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

Don’t be a victim. Take responsibility for your own life, even if it is a mess. All men have problems they would rather someone else deal with. The godly man takes charge of his own circumstances, including his problems. Then he appeals to God for His help, and partners with Him to change his own life.

Realize: You control the way people respond to you by how you conduct yourself. You tell people how to treat you with your attitude, appearance and actions: how you talk, how you dress, whether you are respectful, your work ethic, how you keep your word, whether you give or take. Take responsibility for the reactions that come from your choices. Don’t blame other people for their reactions to what you are doing. Focus on being a respectable man, worthy of confidence and trust, capable of exceeding expectations. Then let the world decide how to respond.

God says the person who is responsible for you is you. “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:4-5). You must carry your own load. In fact, God wants you to go beyond simply bearing your own burden. He wants you to reach out to help others carry theirs as well (verse 2). That makes it all the more clear that you must brace yourself to bear your own.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (verses 7-8). If you don’t like what you’re reaping, take a hard, honest look at what you’ve been sowing. And start making some changes.

God’s way is radically pro-responsibility! The sooner you learn this fact, the faster you will grow and mature, and the more success you will have.

Think about the command in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” That is God’s way: Everyone who is able must work in order to eat. If we followed this command, there would be whining, pleading, tantrum-throwing—but at the end of the day, everyone would take responsibility, everyone would work, and everyone would eat.

In our modern world that has grown intoxicated with government benefits and welfare, we have come to view 2 Thessalonians 3:10 as cruel. We believe we have a better way: Give the meal to the sluggard who chooses not to take responsibility. Who cares if it stunts his growth, his maturity, his productivity, his value, his dignity and even his happiness?

God says if a man does not provide for his family, his religion is worthless (1 Timothy 5:8). Is this cruel of God? Or is He trying to teach a man to become useful and skillful? Is He harsh, or is He trying to build godly character in us? Does He want you to suffer, or does He want to make you better, stronger and happier?

Be Dependable

Taking responsibility means the buck stops with you. It means taking ownership of a job: You cause something to happen, you do all you can to make it a success, and you accept blame if it fails.

The Apostle Paul had an intense commission serving a multitude of people across a huge area and enduring major persecution. He needed help. He found one young man he could rely on: Timothy. God recorded and preserved Timothy’s attributes in the Bible for millions of other men to read.

Paul sent Timothy to the Philippians and wrote, “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:20-22). Among so many others who were simply looking after their own interests, Timothy stood out as a paragon of dependability. He was reliably responsible not only for himself but for many other people. He did the job right, even when it was difficult, even when he didn’t like it, even when it was inconvenient. He embraced responsibility and refused to quit until the job was done.

It takes effort, but it is a choice: You choose whether you can be relied on or not. If it is your priority, you will take responsibility for yourself and not leave your needs and wants lying around to be picked up by others. You will be dependable and trustworthy, carrying out your commitments to others. If this is not your priority, you will be unreliable, unpredictable, distracted, needful of reminders, and always showing up late. You will consume more time, attention and resources than you produce.

Have you ever given God excuses? Moses did: I’m not good enough. Who am I to go to Pharaoh? Why would he listen to me? I can’t even communicate well! (Exodus 3:11; 4:10). Jeremiah did: I can’t speak—I’m just a child! (Jeremiah 1:6). Gideon did: I come from a poor family. I have a bad background! (Judges 6:15). The irresponsible servant in the parable of the talents gave excuses: My boss is too hard. I was afraid! (Matthew 25:24-25). The slothful man does too: I can’t go out there and fulfill my duties because … there’s a lion in the streets! (Proverbs 22:13).

God doesn’t accept such excuses. He still expected the men He called to do their jobs. He still held the servant responsible for his choice. And He labels the preposterous pretexts and outrageous rationalizations of the sluggard for what they are. We might kid ourselves, but we cannot fool God.

1 Corinthians 4:2 says a requirement for a steward is that he be faithful. This word describes a man who proves himself worthy of trust, a man who can be relied on in transacting business, executing commands or discharging official duties.

The motto of the United States Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis: always faithful. That is a good motto for any man.

God needs you to become reliable, trustworthy, responsible. Think about that with every responsibility you have, with every job you are given. See it through, even when it gets hard. As you do, you will gain a reputation for responsibility, and God will be able to count on you.

Own Up to Mistakes

When God gives a job, He wants results. Human nature wants to wriggle out, to put up excuses. If you are given a duty, take responsibility. If you make a mistake, take responsibility.

This is the difference between a child and a grown man. Just watch children playing. A lamp breaks. Do any of them own up to it? If they have not been taught honesty, they all insist on their own innocence. They point fingers at others. They downplay their own guilt. They even devise preposterous explanations of how the lamp was essentially responsible for its own demise.

We have that same nature. As we get older, we may get more sophisticated about rationalizing it, but it is the same tendency. Even when we do wrong, we want to be thought of as good. We value people’s opinions more than truth. We justify ourselves, we minimize our sins, we evade exposure, we deflect blame. All because we don’t want to take responsibility.

Exodus 32 records a perfect example of this. Aaron failed by leading the people in terrible sin (verses 1-5). Moses confronted him (verses 19-21). Follow Aaron’s reasoning in verses 22-24 as it progresses toward utter absurdity: I know this looks bad, but it’s not that bad. Don’t overreact here. You know these people—they’re always up to mischief! They insisted that we do something to worship God. And after all, you had been gone for quite a while; maybe if you’d returned sooner they wouldn’t have gotten so anxious. As for my part, I just asked them to break off their gold. I threw it into the fire, and poof—out came this calf!

Astounding! Aaron had received gold, fashioned it with a tool, made it into a calf, built an altar, and made proclamation in this rank convulsion of idolatry (verses 4-5). And yet here, now brimming with carnal reasoning, this full-grown, prominent national leader managed to explain away the entire incident without taking one shred of responsibility!

But God says, “[B]e sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

When you make a mistake, take responsibility. You can’t change something you don’t admit. Until you own up to your own failures, you will remain stuck in them. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Confess it! Then forsake it—make a different choice the next time.

If you have a son, teach him to do the same. Don’t let him get away with passing blame and sidestepping guilt. Teach him to be up front about his mistakes. This is a crucial part of growing up and becoming a man.

Get Busy

What is your attitude toward responsibility? Do you embrace it? Do you want more of it? If you tend to be complacent and content with mediocrity, challenge that tendency. Think bigger. Seek more. Stoke the fires of ambition within you!

God wants you to take action. You only get the things you work for. There are no shortcuts to mastering a profitable skill, to fortifying your work ethic, to learning to fix your car, to breaking a time-wasting habit, to improving your diet. What are the things you have always wanted to do but have not acted on? Write them down. Bring them to God in prayer. Educate yourself in the steps to take.

Then act! Do it now! Get busy!

Perhaps you are single and would like to be married. At no point will you ever hear your doorbell ring and then open the door to an attractive woman who says, “God sent me.” You can expect to remain single and disappointed until you begin to take some action. Put yourself in a stable financial position; prepare to assume the responsibilities of a provider. And all the while, spend time with women. Develop your people skills. Learn how to relate well with all types. Don’t bemoan your inability to find the right one. Become the “right one” for someone else.

Whatever the endeavor, take responsibility. Take action. Even risk failure. If you don’t try, you cannot succeed. If you fail (which you often will if you are attempting anything greatly worthwhile), do not give up. Take more action, put in more work, power through it with God’s Spirit and with your effort. (Obviously, you don’t want to be hasty or risky with marriage—that is something you, ideally, do only once!)

You have windows of opportunity in life. Sometimes they are open only for a moment. If you are half-asleep, or entrapped in self-pity, you won’t even recognize those moments. If you are habitually inactive and complacent, you will allow timidity and fear to immobilize you. But if you are determined to take responsibility for your own life, then you will be alert to those opportunities, and you will face down your fear—and vault yourself through that window!

Life rewards action. And taking action tends to season and fortify you for taking more action. Accepting responsibility builds momentum toward greater responsibility.

God wants to give you a lot of responsibility. He is watching to see what you do with what you have. When He gives you resources or talents, He wants results. The man who produces the most results is the one God knows can be trusted with more responsibility (Matthew 25:28).

Someday you will have to stand before God and give account (Romans 14:10-12). You cannot stand before God and look around, pointing your fingers of blame at others. Those people will have to answer for themselves. And you, face to face with God, will have to answer for you.

Don’t wait until then to start. God is measuring you right now. So take responsibility. Then God can help you grow, and grow and grow! Then God can give you far greater responsibility—in the Kingdom of God!

Continue Reading: The Leader: Shammah—Stand Your Ground