RESPONSIBILITY – A Four-Minute Sermon
Faith Committee, Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
Contributed by Dr. Paul E. Toms
Senior Pastor (Retired), Park Street Church, Boston, MA
June 15, 2001
Are You Acting Like Responsibility Is Important?
What is responsibility? The Character Council defines it as “knowing and doing what is expected of me.” In keeping with this definition and bringing out two important facets of responsibility, consider in addition the following somewhat technical definition (bear with me because this is important). “Responsibility is the relation a free moral agent has to a decision or act for which the agent is answerable, accountable, or responsible.”[S.R. Obitts, Evangelical Dictionary Of Theology, page 939.] Notice the important words, answerable and accountable.
A responsible person can be trusted. A responsible person will stand by his word. A responsible person is reliable. A responsible person is keenly aware of his duty, and he does it. Sometimes this may mean standing alone. Responsibility sometimes stands by itself. Look at this rather thought-provocing statement: “If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right.” [Julius Renard, 1864-1910.] Can it be true? Does to do right mean to stand by yourself? Sometimes!!
Said George Barnard Shaw, “Liberty means responsibility-That is why most men dread it.” Is this true? Do we naturally shy away from being responsible? Does the world not think responsibility important and desirable? In a New York Times survey which listed a long series of values, people were asked to rate their importance to them; things like, “how valuable is good health?” Or, “how valuable is having a lot of friends?”, etc. The number one value voted was: “Being responsible for your actions.”
Said J.B. Priestly, “A responsible person recognizes the need to be held accountable for actions. “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.” [Leadership, Vol. 2, No. 3.]
The world says responsibility is important.
Now the Bible also says responsibility is important; it has many vital things to say about being responsible.
“So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)
We are answerable to God for what we do with what He has entrusted to us. This includes all the basics of life – time, abilities, material goods, relationships and influence. In I Corinthians 12 and again in Ephesians 4 we learn that the Lord has given spiritual gifts to each of His believers, and we are expected to use these for His glory also.
What we do with the Gospel of salvation is also our personal responsibility – we will be held accountable. A wonderful servant of the Lord once reported: “A missionary wrote to me: ‘Sometimes adversity tempts me to discouragement in the face of seeming failure. But I take courage and press on anew, as I remember that God does not hold me responsible for success, but for faithfulness.’ Jesus said, ‘Well done you faithful servant.’ ” [Corrie Ten Boom in “Each New Day”, Christianity Today, Vol. 34, No. 3.]
Yes, freedom brings responsibility and that will require diligence and faithfulness.
Said Billy Graham, “Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.” [Leadership, Vol. 12, No 4.]
And as so well stated in his great poem, Bernard of Clairvaux says, “go out as a steward, to oversee and to manage that for which you must render an account. Go out…with careful responsibility and responsible care.” Be a responsible person. [cited in “On onsideration”, Christian History, no. 24.]
Finally, in I Chronicles 23, a certain group of people are given directions from God, “….they were to serve the Lord in the way prescribed for them.” And then it reports, “And so (they) carried out their responsibilities.” What a great commentary.
There is the pattern – be dependable and trustworthy and do what is right!
How about you today? How are you doing at managing you and your resources and your life?
Jesus says each of us will give account of ourself to Him. In fact, He also says that as an outcome of this accounting He will give out rewards. These will have impact for eternity:
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged and our lives laid bare – before Him. Each of us will receive whatever he deserves for the good or bad things he has done in his earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Responsibility is important! Realizing you have this significant, personal appointment with Christ in the future that will impact your eternity, are there any steps you should be taking now?
Let’s spend these closing moments quietly alone with the Lord in prayer. Thank Him for blessing you so richly with your life and all His other gifts, and your opportunities to impact lives both for this life and the life to come. Ask Him to show you any areas in your life where you are not being responsible. Ask Him to forgive you for each, and show you steps you need to take. Commit to Him to take these steps with His help. And thank Him for loving you and helping you.
This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.