Read 1 Samuel 13:8–15
The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.Genesis 3:12
Two weeks after his re-election last November, Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned his seat. Jackson cited mental-health issues as the primary reason, although he also alluded to being the subject of federal investigation. “I am doing my best to accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone,” wrote Jackson in his resignation letter to Speaker of the House, John Boehner.
Jackson’s admission of personal responsibility may seem surprising. As sinners (and we all are), it’s more characteristic for us to shirk responsibility and to shift blame. It’s harder to admit when we’ve failed morally or neglected to do what is right. It’s easier to identify other people as the guilty party—or circumstances as an irresistible force in play.
This pattern of blame-shifting has been with us from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned and were questioned by God, both found someone or something else to blame. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither claimed personal responsibility.
In our reading, Saul offered the burnt offering in preparation for battle with the Philistines. Though this was sinful, he offered what he thought were good reasons why it was necessary: the troops were fearful and scattering, Samuel was nowhere to be found, and the Philistine threat was upon them. He had to do it!
Sin can seem rational. We can talk ourselves into reasons for disregarding God’s commands. Samuel puts to Saul the question we all must answer, the question that affixes personal responsibility: “What have you done?” Though we may want to squirm from under the weight of personal accountability, each of us will answer for our own actions.
Apply the Word
We’re often tempted to make excuses for our wrong choices and blame someone else. This is particularly true in our relationships. Keeping deliberate count of another person’s offenses against us is a strategy we use to excuse our own sins of bitterness and unforgiveness. Instead, we are instructed to forgive others (see Matt. 6:12).
Pray with Us
Pray for encouragement to deepen your walk with Christ.