Tag Archives: responsibility


2 Aug

I sat cross-legged on the bed in our inexpensive motel room, midway into our 900-mile trek. Our destination was the university where George hoped to get his doctorate. All our possessions were stacked in the rental truck and stuffed into the towed Datsun station wagon. Two dogs and a ferret occupied boxes in the back of our aging van, which pulled the boat. (“The Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind.) The university hadn’t yet accepted George into the doctoral program; neither house nor jobs waited. I read Matthew 6:19-34, which concluded with these words.

[Jesus said,] “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:31–34 NASB95).

I wrote in the margin, “Does this mean tuition, books, gas?”

I’ve heard the definition for worry is assuming responsibility God never intended us to have. Perhaps the key is distinguishing between God’s responsibility and mine. The passage above says our part is to seek God first. God knows us and adds to our life all necessary things.

Yet that’s an incomplete picture. Second Thessalonians 3:10b says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (NRSV). George and I worked extremely hard—maybe too hard. Remember how Martha worked as Mary sat at Christ’s feet? Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42 NRSV).

Ultimately, God is our greatest need.

Still, we spend time worrying about so many things; most never happen. I realize we have legitimate concerns and God is not our fairy godmother. However, worry changes nothing. I’ve learned to do all I know to do and leave the results to God. We can trust His love and intimate knowledge of our needs. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Paul said, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11 NRSV). That gives me hope. Replacing worry with contentment is something I can learn. The three years it took George to get his doctorate taught us remarkable lessons in contentment versus worry and faith versus fear.

Several years after my encounter with Matthew 6, I wrote the answer to my own question. “Yes— tuition, books, gas and so much more!” In spite of discouragement and fear, God provided material needs, emotional support, spiritual strength, and encouragement—always in His time. Life is continually a matter of praying, trusting, and waiting.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NRSV).


7 Jun

I may be a slow learner, but one thing I know: I have no control over another human being. I can’t make someone love me. I can’t control someone else’s drinking, spending, risk-taking, or attitude. I can influence, guide, instruct, even threaten or beg, but I cannot control. Neither can you. There’s freedom as well as frustration in that realization.

As a teacher and parent, I attempted to motivate obedience through teaching personal responsibility and intrinsic benefits. I wanted my children and students to know the joy of learning and the rewards of commitment and hard work. However, failing that, I dispensed consequences. Faced with consequences, most people comply with rules and standards. But not always. Sometimes we try to get between our loved ones and life, but that eventually becomes impossible. Life overflows with consequences—everything from a damaged relationship to life in prison.

I control only one person. I can choose my thoughts and my behavior and emotions will follow. Excluding physical restrictions, so can you.
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28 NASB95).

I require God’s help controlling my spirit; it’s not an option. His faithfulness is my stability and strength for living. I need Christ’s love as my motivation and purpose.

“For the love of Christ controls us. . .so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him. . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NASB95).

As we grow in knowledge and love for God, we’re changed. We’re able to give God control when we remain focused on His character and compassion rather than our fears or needs. Then, like a fruit-producing vine, the Holy Spirit reproduces Christ’s nature in us.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things (Galatians 5:22–23 NRSV).