LIFE AND THE WORD
In our previous piece we were talking about the sense of responsibility, that quality so important for the development of the person, for the performance of their activities and for social coexistence. After describing the effects of its absence on man and society, we begin to inquire about the origins of this quality, and how it is formed in the human being.
We talk about the environmental and cultural influences that contribute to its formation, the impact that the geographic environment, education and the example of parents have on its gestation.
But we said that, going beyond these factors, in our Western Christian culture, without denying the importance of the Greco-Roman heritage and of the Stoic morality that flourished before and after Christ–and in which many see in part an anticipation of Christian morality–in our culture, I say, the sense of responsibility is firmly anchored in the message of the Gospel.
The phrase “sense of responsibility” does not appear in the Bible, but its assumptions are derived from many of the teachings contained in the Old and New Testaments. First, the law of love: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Lk 6:31). This is the golden rule of Christian conduct; the practical expression of the Mosaic command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18; Mt 19:19). If I truly love him, I will treat him as I would want him to treat me. I cannot give him inferior, or less considerate, treatment than I expect of him.
But it is impossible to treat someone well if you yourself are not responsible in your actions, careful, forewarned, prudent because, otherwise, you will fail in any of them. In other words, loving not only in word but indeed necessarily includes being responsible. An irresponsible person, that is, one who lacks a sense of responsibility, will not be able to truly put his love into practice by benefiting those he loves, but rather, without wanting to, he will inevitably harm by his actions the interests or feelings of the people around him, his acquaintances, friends and relatives (not to mention those who are unknown to him), because he will act in any way and without taking into account the consequences of his actions. (Note 1).
If you love others, you will fulfill well the orders they give you, because if you do not, you harm them. If you love them you will take care of the things, objects, books, equipment, etc., that others entrust to you; you will take care of them while they are in your hands, and you will return them intact within the stipulated time. That means being responsible.
This principle also applies to loans. If someone gives you a sum of money, and you are a responsible person, you will return it as soon as possible. You will show your love for that person by paying them what you owe them. If you do not do so, you sin against love, in the first place; but also against the commandment that forbids stealing, because not to return what you borrow is stealing. Ultimately the one who defrauds others is not only dishonest, but irresponsible as well.
The physician, if he has a sense of responsibility, will attend to his patients, whether he is paid or not, to the best of his knowledge and science. He will not leave unattended any sick person who comes to him, because he knows that he is responsible before God for the health and life of his fellow men. (2) The care you take in attending to them will be a sign of your love for them, even if you do not smile at them, or if you are not very demonstrative. So we see how, in this case too, love of the neighbor and a sense of responsibility go hand in hand.
One cannot love his neighbor without being responsible for his actions, we have said. On the other hand, the opposite is possible. In other words, it is possible to be very responsible in the performance of your duties, and at the same time not feel any love for the people you serve. It must be recognized then that love, although it is at the base of the sense of responsibility, transcends it and goes far beyond this quality. (3)
James wrote quoting Jesus “let your yes be yes, and your no be no” . (Jas 5:12; Mt 5:37) That is to say: your word has the value of a contract, even if it is not backed by a signed piece of paper. Fulfill your commitments. That is, be responsible when you commit. Don’t do it lightly, but if you do, honor your word.
To honor one’s word is an eminently Christian norm, because God always honors his word and does not disappoint those who trust in him. If we want to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48), we will never let our word fall to the ground, because, as it is said in Joshua, God never lets his word fall to the ground, they are all fulfilled (Js 21:45; 23:14). His word “endures forever,” says the Scripture (Is 40:8; 1Pet 1:25). To the extent of our strength our words must remain, they must always be valid, as long as we have breath of life.
When the Christian says: “I give you my word”, he must know that he is putting God as a witness of his commitment. And how could you fulfill it if you have no sense of responsibility? In cases like this, the truthfulness, the faithfulness of a Christian, his love for the truth, pushes him to be a responsible person.
He is not really a Christian who irresponsibly breaks his word, or defrauds his creditors, or fails to deliver the contracted work on time, or does it badly, or is late for appointments.
Punctuality is an eminently Christian quality and is a component of a sense of responsibility. St. Paul wrote: “Make good use of the time” (Eph 5:16). The time of others and one’s own time is a gift from God. I steal someone else’s time if I am late for an appointment. If I tend to be unpunctual, it shows that I lack a sense of responsibility in managing my time, and in respecting the time of others.
But it is above all at work that the sense of responsibility is most clearly manifested. St. Paul said in Colossians: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (3:23). “From the heart,” that is, with all my being, with all my strength.
If I do my job “not serving the eye” who sees me, but fearing God (Eph 6:6), I will perform my labors with a sense of responsibility, doing them to the best of my ability, and according to the wishes of the one who hired my services because, above him is God whom I serve.
If I perform my duties in a careless manner, without interest, without effort; if I do a bad job, if I do not meet the deadlines, I give bad testimony of my condition as a Christian; I make the name of God look bad by showing myself as an irresponsible, immature person.
My devotion to the honor of God will ensure that in everything I do, the name of the Christian I bear, the name of Christ, my Lord, will be held high. My adherence to your name will oblige me to be a responsible person.
But ultimately, the sense of responsibility has its origin in the fact that all of us will give an account to God for all our actions on the day of judgment. We are accountable to Him for every action we take, every task we perform, every appointment we keep, every minute we waste, every “idle” or harmful word we utter (Mt 12:36). He will not literally ask us with how much sense of responsibility we act before the world and before Christians, but that question will be implicit when we appear for judgment before his throne.
We know that someday we will stand before the Judge of the living and the dead to account for even the smallest of our actions. And to receive the reward, the payment, that our deeds deserve (Jb 34:11, 1Pet 1:25). We would not have to give an account, nor would we receive any reward, if we were not responsible for what we do.
In that hour many heathen who followed only the dictates of their conscience, and who will be judged by it (Rom 2:14-16), will be admitted to heaven and will receive, who knows, a greater reward than many Christians, because they fulfilled their earthly obligations better than these; because they were responsible for their acts; and because, as Jesus said: “To him who receives much, much is required”. (Lk 12:48). And we have received more than the heathen.
Be responsible in all your occupations, in all your conduct, before your brothers and sisters and before the world. Prove that you are a worthy son of the most responsible, yes, of the most responsible of all fathers, of the most responsible of all patrons, of the most responsible of all lords, of the One who felt so responsible for your eternal destiny that He sent His only Son to die for you, so that someday you could enjoy His presence and not be condemned for your irresponsible acts.
Notes: 1. Perhaps the most important element of a sense of responsibility is this: taking into account the possible consequences of our acts and omissions. This awareness is a manifestation of maturity.
2. What happens in our hospitals, the lamentable cases of carelessness, and the tragic errors that frequently occur, are a sign of the lack of that quality among our doctors.
3. There are people who are very responsible by education, or by culture, or by habit, or by environmental pressure, or by natural inclination of character, and who, at the same time, are dry and lacking in love. And there are also those who are very responsible in doing evil. That is, they do it consciously, serving the cruelest of overseers, the enemy of their souls. Paradoxes of human nature that show how human virtues, divorced from their source, which is God, can become twisted and perverse.
NB. The text of this radio talk was first published in a limited edition on July 18, 2004, and contained material that had been previously published in the newspaper “Gestión”. Like the previous article of the same title, I am republishing it, slightly revised, in order to make it available to as many readers as possible.
Beloved reader: Jesus said: “What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul” (Mark 8:36). If you are not sure that when you die you will go to enjoy the presence of God, it is very important that you acquire that security, because there is no security on earth that compares to it and that is so necessary. To that end I urge you to repent of all your sins and invite you to ask God’s forgiveness for them by praying the following prayer:
“Jesus, you came into the world to atone on the cross for the sins committed by all men, including mine. I know that I do not deserve your forgiveness, because I have offended you consciously and voluntarily many times, but you offer it to me freely and without deserving it. I want to receive it. I sincerely repent of all my sins and all the evil I have committed until today. Forgive me, Lord, I beg you; wash away my sins with your blood; enter my heart and rule my life. Henceforth I want to live for you and serve you.”