The Buck Stops Here

The Buck Stops Here

the buck stops here

Harry S. Truman – the 33rd president of the United States – had a sign on his desk which read, “The buck stops here.”  It refers to a slang expression from the game of poker.  The buck was a marker which was used to keep track of the person whose turn it was to deal.  If somebody didn’t want to do it, they could pass the buck to the next person at the table.  In his farewell address in January 1953, President Truman described what the phrase “The buck stops here” meant to him, saying, “The President – whoever he is – has to decide.  He can’t pass the buck to anybody.  No one else can do the deciding for him.  That’s his job.”

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve both partake of the fruit of the forbidden tree – the tree from which God commanded them not to eat.  When confronted by the Lord, Adam passes the buck to Eve.  The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12).  Likewise, when Samuel asks Saul, “What have you done?” after Saul’s unlawful sacrifice, the king responds by first saying, “I saw that the people were scattering from me” (I Sam. 13:11).  And with that, the buck again moves around the table.  Likewise, Moses interrogates Aaron after the sin with the golden calf, and as one who himself dabbled with blaming the people for his problems, Moses almost gives his brother a way out with the question, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” (Exod. 32:21).  Is it any surprise that Aaron (Exod. 32:22-24) then responds with something like, “That’s right, Moses!  You know these wicked people, don’t you?  They sure are set on evil.”  And the buck moves again.

Many of us husbands today are truly sons of Adam, and I say that to our shame.  When the light shines on our shortcomings as a spouse or as a father, we choose to blame our wives.  “I am sorry for what I have done,” we begin, “but my wife is always spending time with the kids.  She doesn’t respect me.  She doesn’t love me like I want to be loved.  But I’m sorry for not being a better husband and father.”  Even the world knows that an apology is not “a real apology” when one blames his/her wrongs on another.

Contrast Adam’s words with those of the humble and contrite prodigal son – “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).  No blaming the famine.  No blaming the prostitutes in the far country.  No blaming his enabling father or “perfect” older brother.  Instead, the younger son takes ownership of his own sinful choices.  “The buck stops here.”  And listen to David’s six straight-forward words after being confronted with his sin: “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13).  In addition, Jesus praises the tax collector who only uses seven words to acknowledge his own wrongdoing: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).  Rather than use a conglomeration of many words to blame others or shift fault to one’s circumstances, the one forgiven by God simply yet humbly confesses his/her own sin.

If you have watched much football, especially NFL football, then you know that touchdown celebrations can be absurd and over-the-top.  A majority of players, after scoring, proceed with pre-rehearsed or choreographed dances.  The NFL even allows these types of celebrations now, with a small set of rules which ban things like the use of props or anything which might be considered indecent.  All of this differs greatly from the mindset of some of the great coaches of yesteryear.  In fact, there is a quote which embodies this old-school attitude, and no one even knows if it originated with Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, Paul Brown, or some other great coach.  The quote goes something like this: “When you get in the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”  No drawing attention to oneself.  No showing up the other team.  Instead, exhibit maturity, respect, and self-discipline.

In conclusion, just know that when we blame others for our transgressions, we sound like the first-time sinner – like Adam – even though we all know that we have sinned many times before.  We sound like little children who say, “But it’s all my brother’s fault.  He hit me first.  She started it.”  It’s past time for myself and others to grow up.  Take responsibility for what you have said and done.  Act like you’ve been there before, because you and the Lord both know that you have.

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