Be Responsible

Here is the third in a lovely list of ten lessons essential for every high school graduate preparing to venture out into the “real world.” While Elaine Bransford, the AP literature teacher who composed them did so for students, they carry applicability for us all. Number 3:

You should feel  sense of responsibility for your role in your family, your community, your country and your world. It should be clear that without this sense of responsibility, happiness will be elusive.

This sense of responsibility applies to faith, church and work as well. I preached recently on Jesus parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (five wise and five foolish–Luke 25:1-13). Many of Jesus’ other parables start with some sort of inequality in play: an admired Pharisee opposed to a despised tax-collector, the rich man versus Lazarus the beggar, three employees with three different allotments of talents. By contrast, this is an equal-opportunity parable. Each of the ten bridesmaids are entrusted with a lamp to keep lit. Their subsequent wisdom and foolishness is measured solely by the extent to which they do their jobs well. Each had the same responsibility and possibility for success; each was free to do it or not. Freedom can be a funny thing. It allows us to choose whether to do right or wrong, to help or to hurt, to love or to hate, to attend or defy, to make beautiful or ruin. In this way, freedom resides at the root of sin: we each make our choices. God grants freedom for the sake of relationship. Love cannot be coerced and still be called love. Our abuses of freedom never result in its removal. But God does hold us accountable. We are responsible. This is the parable’s lesson.

Protestants have historically carved a deep divide between faith and work, but Jesus said you can only know a tree by its fruit. He asked, “Why do you call me Lord but not do the things I command?” This applies to the work we do (or don’t do) on behalf of the hungry, the sick, the stranger and prisoner, the least of these with whom Jesus places himself in solidarity. But it also applies to the work we do everyday at our jobs, as the parables of the wicked servant and the employees and talents make clear. Faithful fruit is not only prayer and Bible study and going to church on Sundays . The trades we ply Monday through Friday, the very bulk of our lives, are to be infused by the faith we profess too.

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