A brief story came across my desk some years ago that serves as a great teaching tool for more than what it was originally written for. It told of a woman who stood with a friend in the door to her three year olds bedroom and watched as he struggled to get a shirt over his head, his arms in the sleeves and the whole thing pulled down to somewhere close to right. He was grunting and struggling as his mother just stood there and watched. Her arms were rigidly at her sides, every instinct in her wanted to reach out and do it for her little boy, but she forcefully refrained. Finally, her friend turned to her and said in exasperation, “Why don’t you help that child?” The mother looked her in the eye and through gritted teeth, replied, “I AM helping him”.
Often “helping” someone is not to do something for them, but instead to encourage them in the doing of that exercise on their own. The messages of the brief story above is that children have to learn to do things for themselves. Children that are handed everything, given everything, relieved of all responsibility for themselves, are children that will grow up to be adults that believe that everything is owed to them in some way. Our current society is a prime example of just such a failure to teach responsibility for it is filled to the brim with such people. Not long ago two statements, both issued by the federal government, were place side by side showing a glimpse of our problem. In short, one was a statement concerning the great strides the government had made in signing up more people for food stamps than had ever been enrolled in the program. The other statement was at the entrance to a federal park urging the visitors to not give food to the wild animals because it would cause them to become dependent upon the handouts of the visitors and forget how to provide for themselves. They could see the problem with the wild animals while ignoring the same problem with people. It is about time that we realized that we have a responsibility toward our own care and needs. Who is responsible for our food, our health care, our light bills and our cell phones. We are! We readily recognize the need to provide for those who are “unable” to care for themselves, but those who are able must take responsibility for themselves. After all, the apostle Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thess 3:10).
Though the above is a serious matter and the health of the United States of America is in jeopardy as a result of this shortcoming in the realm of personal responsibility, our greatest need is to admit to the need of and then accept the responsibility that has been placed upon us in the realm of our own eternal salvation. As with those physical needs we are responsible for our spiritual care and needs as well. Now it is certainly true that the Son of God died on the cross for the sins of mankind. The price of redemption from sin was a cost that we have no ability to pay. However, that price has been paid for us. However, God has never made anyone sin (James 1:13-15) and God has, and never will, make anyone obey. God has given man responsibility, the responsibility to accept His supremacy and to bow down to Him in obedience in order to receive eternal salvation. As we struggle trying to put on our spiritual garments, one could almost see the Lord, as that mother watching her child try to put his own shirt on, agonizing over our efforts and desiring to do it for us, but knowing that we must do our part.
As the parent that gives everything to their child, the denominational world in general has been and still is advocating that God has, does and will give everything to His children without them taking any responsibility for themselves and includes all mankind as His children. The fact is, no one is a child of the eternal Father in heaven without first becoming such. All those who believe in Christ Jesus have the power “to become” children of God (John 1:12). Multitudes are being taught daily that God has done it all and that no one has to do anything in order to have eternal life. When the multitude asked Peter and the other apostles what they needed to do (Acts 2:47), Peter did not say, “nothing”. He told them what they had to do (Acts 2:38). When Jesus gave the great commission to the apostles, He did not tell them to go tell people that they did not have to do anything. He told them to go teach and that the people would have to do what they were told to do. Jesus once stated, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Man tells people that they do not have to do anything, but the Lord said one must do the will of the Father in heaven if they are to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is “…the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). Paul told the Philippians to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Your salvation is your own responsibility. (Send any questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.