Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
We live in an age of Blamers. Won’t anybody stand up and admit they are guilty without making excuses! We were discussing this in my small group and we wondered, “What does the Bible say about blaming others for our problems?”
The problem is that we have disconnected rights from responsibilities. People are fixated on their rights; but, have a shriveled sense of responsibility. As a result, if they don’t get what they want, they assume it must be somebody else’s fault. “Don’t blame me!”
The classic biblical teaching regarding dodging blame is Exodus 32. We find here the story of Aaron and the golden calf. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, Aaron was busy making Israel a god they could see like those in Egypt! After all, it’s easier to worship a visible God than one who can’t be seen! Jehovah God was more than a little angry because of their sin and blasphemy.
The key passage is Exodus 32:24: “So I told them, ‘whoever has any gold jewelry take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
"Don't blame me! It's not my fault!"
A growing compulsion of all Americans of all creeds, colors, incomes, young or old, the sickly or the robust, the guilty as well as the innocent, is to ascribe to themselves the status of victim so that whatever is wrong, incomplete, or just plain unpleasant is someone else’s fault.
In an incredible series of recent cases, some men injured themselves in refrigerator races in which large, usually beefy guys, strapped refrigerators to their backs to see who could can run the fastest and the farthest. They argued that the warnings against carrying these appliances were insufficient. They claimed that it was the manufacturer’s fault! The refrigerators should have carried warnings that strapping refrigerators to your back and racing could be injurious to your health.
Thirty years ago, when that refrigerator was manufactured, it might never have occurred to someone who hurt his back to sue the manufacturer. But times have changed.
“Don’t blame me!”
Aaron and the Golden Calf
Exodus 32 records one of the darkest points in Israel’s history. The plagues that Jehovah rained down on the Egyptians did not touch Israel. Six weeks earlier they exited Egypt to freedom. The Red Sea had split. Pharaoh’s army was wiped out before their eyes! He fed them manna and quail and brought them water from a rock! How quickly they forgot.
The people began to rant and rave: “Make us a god we can see.” This is not such a strange request. God is a spirit; he can’t be seen.
Worshiping a single invisible God is quite different from worshiping the many gods of Egypt. Statues and idols dedicated to the Egyptian’s gods were everywhere. The most significant god visible to the Egyptians was Apis, the bull god. The Israelites had seen Apis and noticed its power. In Memphis, Egypt, the temple which was sacred to Apis worship was discovered in 1850. Close nearby were mummy pits in which no fewer than 1200 bull mummies were found.
Against this background, the Israelites demanded a bull.
On such a day we all have the opportunity to stand as a man or woman of integrity. Any dead fish can flow down the stream with the crowd. Aaron was flowing downstream with the current.
So, Aaron made a golden calf. It probably had a wooden center and was overlaid with gold. The people partied! A scene far more voluptuous than I care to deal with in public broke out. It was a time of drunkenness, debauchery, and wicked sexual sin.
The climax came when Moses made his way down the mountain. The two brothers, Moses and Aaron stood face-to-face.
“Why did you do it, Aaron? Why?”
“Now, look here, Moses, all I did was throw the gold into the fire and out jumped this calf. Don’t blame me.”
We haven’t failed until we start blaming someone else.
Trying to get out from under all of this, Aaron took a course as old as time. He went back to the garden. Confronted with this sin, he exclaimed, “The woman which you gave me; it was her fault.” Eve said, “The servant beguiled me.” It was his fault.
We blame others. We blame circumstances. We blame society.
“Don’t push me, Moses, or I’ll blame the people. It’s their fault.”
“Moses, it was the crowd, the circumstances, the fire, the system, the school, the government, the administration. They are the problem.”
The trend today is that the victims of “social injustice” should not be held accountable for the wrongs they do.
In the famous “Twinkie Defense,” Dan White, who killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, argued that he was a victim of temporary insanity brought about by eating junk food.
We are often the creators of the very environments that we try to blame on others.
We jump in a current flowing the wrong way and somewhere we hit a snag. Who’s to blame? Certainly not us! It’s the rock or the stream. “It wasn’t my fault! The current pushed me that way!”
But, we forget that it’s we who jumped in the river.
Fire only hardens what we put in.
Aaron made the golden calf. The fire only hardened what he put in.
I’ve heard fathers say in so many words, “Don’t blame me. I put my son into the world and this is what came out. The world did it.” Unfortunately, these men forget that the world only hardens what they have already fashioned.
Americans are developing an aversion to risk; but that is an incomplete picture. Americans are willing to take risks. They are willing to do stupid and dangerous things like holding refrigerator races. What they’re not willing to do is accept the consequences of their actions.
What am I to do?
1. Always tell the truth.
Truth is like a lion. Set it free and it can always defend itself.
In the long run, telling the truth will always be better than telling lies.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
2. If you're guilty, stop making excuses.
Most people will quickly forgive those who take responsibility for their actions when they say “I’m sorry. I did it.”
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me”’ (Luke 14:18).
In an age when everyone wants to make an excuse, admit what you’ve done wrong and stop talking. Put a period right there.
3. If you're wrong, admit it and take the consequences.
In a culture of “cover-ups,” people are more likely to forgive us if we’ll just admit that we’ve done wrong. Instead, we fool no one by spouting a bundle of lies.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover-up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-11).
4. Have an attitude like the disciples when Jesus revealed that one of them would betray Him: "Lord, is it I?"
This calls for humility. No one is above sin.
“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”’ They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, Lord, ‘Is it I?”’ (Matthew 26:20-22).
5. Now enjoy the delights of a clean conscience.
We confess our sins to God in order to receive his forgiveness so that our conscience is clean with God.
Sometimes, in my opinion, there are times when it is best to keep the discretion just between God and us. This is a judgment call.
“Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way” (Hebrews 13:18).
“If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Well, Dan, I hope this helps.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
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