I like the TV show M*A*S*H. There were 251 episodes of the show and I am fairly certain that over the years I have seen them all. I liked the show in its early years – before the writing and the focus became more political. But even after it jumped the shark, the show was still one of my favorites.
The character of Hawkeye Pierce was the biggest politician on the show. In several episodes, he took his angst out upon President Harry Truman by writing him a letter. One of these episodes featured a letter with a simple question: “Who’s responsible?” In that instance, Hawkeye wanted to know why they were in Korea. The letter caused a stir, Hawkeye got in trouble, but he was able to escape the consequences and live not so happily ever after. A bit corny and contrived, but what TV show isn’t after that many years on the air?
Who’s responsible is a question that many people ask in their daily lives. Who is responsible for the things going on in my life? Look at society as a whole and you see so many people jockeying to take responsibility for some things and to deflect it for others. It’s like a moral game of hot potato. Who came up with that great idea? – that was me. Who made them so angry? – that was him. But it goes beyond the simple day-to-day problems. When a lady can set a cup of hot coffee between her legs while driving, hit a bump, burn her lap and win a lawsuit against McDonald’s for not warning her that the coffee was hot – that’s absurd. When a man can attempt suicide by jumping in front of a New York subway train, fail, and then sue the city and win millions of dollars in a settlement – that’s absurd. Fewer people today want to take responsibility for what they do and those who are strong enough to be responsible end up taking so much blame for what happens around them they often buckle and decide it’s not worth it. And we wonder where the leaders have gone?
Deuteronomy 8:11-20 speaks to all groups. To those people who look to take credit for everything they can, God reminds them who is ultimately responsible for everything we receive. God brought Isreal out of Egypt, provided for them in the wilderness, established them in the promised land and made provision to give them every good thing (verse 13 provides an glimpse of what God had in store for His people). But what did the people need to do? Remember who was responsible. God is clear in verses 17-18, “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.”
So when this breaks down, who is responsible? The answer is obvious, but because of our sinful pride, hard to accept. The leaders had to remind themselves that it was God who would continue to provide for the people victory in battle, nourishment for their bodies, and direction for their lives – their role was to follow that leading. Following the commands of God then fell upon every member of the nation of Israel. The leaders couldn’t blame their obedience issues on the people, the people couldn’t blame their struggles on the poor decisions of the leaders.
We too must understand that while it is not easy to do, we must silence our own desires to take credit for what isn’t ours and to refuse taking responsibility for what truly is ours. Thankfully, we turn to God for the strength to do that as well. God is big that way. Relying upon Him is hard, but it is rewarding to those who put their trust in His commands.