By David Hegg
I was out cleaning my pool thinking about this column and I found myself asking this question: When did I become “old-school?”
This whole COVID-19 thing has left me with lots of hours to read, write, study, think, video sermons and devotionals via iPhone, and reflect. And sometimes my reflections get me in trouble. Like everyone else, I’m getting fatigued with all the restrictions, regulations, and recommendations coming at me from every side. I’m actually being really good.
Like you, I’ve never washed my hands so many times, or pushed light switches with my elbow, or spent hours zooming with family and friends. But out cleaning my pool I found myself reflecting on the fact that, at some level, we’re being treated like children who don’t know how to take care of themselves. And the sad part is, a whole bunch of us apparently don’t.
And that got me to thinking about the famine in our land of personal responsibility. Here’s the deal: If you go out in the rain without a jacket and hood, you’re going to get wet. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to figure that out. If you show up late to work consistently, you’re going to get reprimanded or worse, no matter how outstanding your third-grade teacher said you were. You should know that. And if you hang out with sick people who are coughing and sneezing all over you, you’re going to get sick, and it might get really, really bad.
At least that’s the way life worked in the old school. We learned that actions have consequences and if you didn’t like the consequences, you should refrain from the actions. And then it all changed. Almost overnight we lost the sense of personal responsibility. Now, if you go out in the rain and get wet it’s the fault of the person who didn’t tell you to wear a coat. If you get canned at work it’s the fault of the supervisor who didn’t work hard enough to understand and “get” you. And if you happened to catch a cold, or be diagnosed with a truly dreadful disease, it’s certainly the fault of those who pollute the air, inject the meat, grow non-organic crops, or in some way messed with your life in ways that were totally beyond your control. Bad things were done, but not by me! Somebody should have made sure my life was always perfect!
Does it seem a bit weird that we only take precautions now if someone makes us do it? Are we all just children waiting to be told what to do and not do? Have we ceded over responsibility for our very lives to the government?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I honor the government — it is God’s vehicle of what we theologians call “common grace.” Governments provide and protect the basic framework of laws and regulations that allow for an ordered society. But, none of that transfers primary responsibility from the individual to the state. When we give over complete responsibility for our well-being to the government, not only do we suffer, but so also does our entire society.
Our founding documents here in America pre-suppose an educated and moral populace. And they place the first level of responsibility on each of us, to think, to act and to respond to situations with wisdom and integrity if not just plane ol’ common sense. And, as citizens we accept the responsibility to act responsibly. Or at least we used to.
So Moms, we need you more than ever. We need you to enroll your kids in the old school and demand some old-school responsibility from them. Don’t let them grow up thinking their mistakes are really someone else’s fault, that their transgressions can be blamed on society, or that their poor decisions shouldn’t have consequences. You need to critique their stupidity, correct their childish ways, punish their disobedience, and reward their honesty, hard work, and willingness to admit and clean up their messes.
And while you’re at it, pound into them that they are not the center of the universe, the world doesn’t owe them success, and there’s a God who does loves them and deserves their trust and worship.
I guess I really am old-school. Then again, maybe it’s time we realize old school is the best school. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms … we need you more than ever!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.