Daniel Fast Day 14

Rights vs Responsibility

The tension between rights and responsibility is at best a tenuous one. Godly people need to be taught the tension between rights versus responsibility. The culture in which we are soaked in is filled with the demand of rights. As  Christ followers, we cannot allow the culture to dictate our behavior or patterns of thought. We are warned by the Proverb writer not to become like a miser: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7(NASB) Thoughts lead to behavior and repeated behavior is the building block of habits. Our habitual actions create patterns of responses and once we get used to responding in a certain way, our automatic pilot is set. When something becomes a habit, it becomes much, much harder to break because it is now part of us. It becomes a lifestyle and without any new thought, we simply do what we have always done. Why do we do what we have always done? Because we simply think the way we have always thought. If there is no new thought, no new action is even faintly possible. That is why changing your mind is a great thing because only a changed mind can lead to a changed life!

No wonder Paul appeals to us and says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” Romans 12:2(J.B. Phillips)

As Christ followers, two actions are necessary for us towards reaching the goal of true Christ-like maturity. First, don’t buy into the culture or allow the culture to squeeze you into the same actions and responses. Second, allow God to re-make and mold your way of thinking. What does this have to do with rights and responsibilities? Absolutely everything! Renewing your mind through God’s Word allows us to see the world from a Biblical perspective. This then enables us to discern what the will of God is for our lives. Once we know God’s plan, it removes the confusion and helps us not to stumble through life. It helps us to set our lives in God’s direction for us. Paul writes to the Colossians and says: “God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you.”  Colossians 1:25(NLT)

When we understand our responsibility like Paul did, it enables us to sift through the milieu of thousands of options, so that we may end up doing what the Lord wants us to do. Being aware of our responsibilities and then choosing not to fulfill them speaks of a much deeper issue. The issue of the heart; a heart of rebellion instead of a heart of submission. We will never be able to be rooted and grounded unless we have a completely renovated mindset. We must have a clear picture of what we are responsible for and who we are responsible to. Our responsibilities are given to us by God in the same way that Paul received his responsibility from God. If God gave them to us, then we are ultimately accountable to Him. “I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.“ Romans 12:3(MSG)

Again, Paul talks about his responsibilities to the church and the enablement or grace that he received to do what God requires. We are reminded that it is the same for us. We live on pure grace. When we understand God’s grace, we have a clear picture of ourselves. We are sober minded. We are not intoxicated by self-interest or self-importance. We evaluate ourselves in view of God’s mercy. Therefore, we do not boast about what we are doing for the Lord but rather what the Lord has done for us. Why is this so important? Because we are focused on obedience not on rights. But what about our rights? We cannot have rights without responsibility because that leads to entitlement. Responsibility without rights leads to exploitation and eventually exasperation. These two aforementioned principles are not how God’s Kingdom functions. We don’t ever have to be afraid that we will only be given responsibility and no reward. Jesus said the smallest act in the Kingdom, such as giving a glass of water to the least will be rewarded. (Matthew 10:42) But Jesus was also very clear in the parable of the talents that a wicked and lazy servant might be entitled to his or her opinion, but nothing else. (Matthew 25) In God’s Kingdom we must fulfill our responsibilities to receive what God has promised. The problem arises when we demand rights without fulfilling our responsibility.

Should we then try to avoid thinking or even talking about rights? Not necessarily. Paul addresses his spiritual son, young Timothy, and he gives him instructions on the way Elders (Pastors) ought to be treated in the church. “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” 1 Timothy 5:17-18(NLT) Those who do their work well should be compensated well. (Hallelujah, I see a pay raise coming! Just kidding, maybe not…) Do you notice that God gives responsibility but He does not allow exploitation? Paul gives a picture from the Old Testament of an ox grinding away working hard. (Deuteronomy 25:4) A muzzled ox can see the grain, smell the grain, and tread out the grain but never eat the grain. So, in the Law of Moses, it was stipulated that while the ox is working, that ox has a right to be eating from the grain he is treading out. It shows the Father’s care not just for human beings, but for all creation. But the essence is not just simply the care of animals, but the righteous treatment of those fulfilling their responsibilities in the Kingdom. God does not want His servants to be exploited, neither does He want them to become entitled.

In communicating to the church in Corinth, Paul writes, “Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?  Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does?  Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?  What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk?”  1 Corinthians 9:4-7(NLT)
It is pretty clear that there is a healthy balance between responsibility and rights. Fall in either ditch and we become lopsided and unbalanced. As sons and daughters of the King, we have responsibilities and we have rights. There is no need to demand something that God has promised. There is however a need to be faithful to what God has required of us. Allow me to take us one step deeper. Are you ready? You might want to take a deep breath because what I am about to say is for mature audiences only! First, let’s hear from Paul.

“Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?  If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.” 1 Corinthians 9:11-12(NLT)

An indicator of true love and maturity is the willingness to lay aside that which is a God given and God sanctioned right, for the sake of someone else’s faith. To give up one’s legitimate right for the sake of not hindering the Good News is truly the mark of godly character and Christ like maturity. To suffer loss willingly while still accepting responsibility for those who are not mature enough or who are susceptible to stumble, demonstrates a trust that very few have shown in our day and age. We would rather justify the demanding of our rights, than giving them up for the sake of someone else’s faith. Paul was more interested in growing the faith of God’s people in Corinth than he was worried about them taking care of his physical needs. Needs that he had a right to demand to be met, because of his labor among them. Yet he willingly laid them aside so that Christ may be formed in them! (There goes my raise)

Imagine with me for just a moment, a church more interested in fulfilling their God given responsibilities than demanding their rights. Imagine that same church willing to suffer the loss of things, so that others may lay hold of the Good News of Christ. The highest act of love and sacrifice is giving up something that I have a right to, for someone else.

When the scales are favored on the side of responsibility instead of rights, everyone wins. 

Prayer and Reflection:
  • If change is only possible by thinking new thoughts, are you allowing the Holy Spirit to shape your thoughts? How are you doing it?
  • How balanced is your view of rights versus responsibility? Can you think of something practical in your life that reflects your answer? If not, you might want to dig a little deeper…
  • Rights without responsibility lead to entitlement. What can you do if you are suffering from an entitlement mindset?
  • Some people think that they are doing God a favor by serving Him. What habit can you build into your daily routine to remind yourself that it is all by His grace?
  • Are you willing, if needed, to give up your rights for the sake of others’ faith? What do you think that would look like?

Thank you Lord, for another day that I can praise You, worship You, and renew my commitment to You. I pray for all my brothers and sisters reading this devotional today, that our minds will be enlightened and our hearts will be enlarged.

Lord, this might be something I don’t totally grasp. Nevertheless, I ask You to help me to not be squeezed into the world’s mold or mindsets. Set me free to think the thoughts that You want me to think. Reshape my mind by Your living Word and help me build a Biblical worldview, so that I may form habits that please You!

Remind me that no matter how small the sacrifice or how insignificant the responsibility might seem, You always notice. Thank You that You not only notice, but You also reward. Help me to walk daily in your peace, leaning on Your love and enjoying Your presence. Bless our Rock Church family and help all of us to become deeply rooted in You!

I love You Jesus, Amen!
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