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I Have My Rights!
No Rights Without Responsibility
Have your ever heard someone use the expression: "I've got my rights!"? We are living in a society that values the rights of the individual. And that is a good thing. For most of history, the majority of people have been at the mercy of the rich and powerful who controlled their lives and their destinies. The freedoms that we enjoy are a rare and valuable treasure that we all take for granted.
In this country, we live in a republic where we the people vote in the persons who are to be our representatives. And if we don't like how we're being governed, we can vote them out again. This places a heavy responsibility on us because, in many ways, the government is a reflection of who we are as a nation and as individuals. It was John Adams who said that: "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." And yet our nation is swiftly moving away from a Judeo-Christian worldview toward a more secular-humanistic way of seeing life. This is a view in which man is the highest being and therefore sets the standards for morality.
The greatest trouble with this way of thinking is that we can't ever totally agree on what is moral, so our ethics and morality are ever changing. Instead of absolute truths given by an all-wise creator, everything is relative. Our morals usually reflect the persons who are currently able to win the minds of the masses at the time.
One of the many ideas that are being sacrificed at the altar of humanism is the idea that an individual may have rights that need to be upheld by society, but they also have responsibilities to that society as well. Unless every capable member of a nation participates and does their fair share within the community in which they live, a society cannot function properly. And if enough people refuse to work, the society will soon collapse.
An example of rights and responsibilities can be seen by looking at the house in which I live. It is not standing here because of my efforts. A lot of people came together to make it what it is. Architects and electricians, plumbers and roofers, are just a few of the many professionals who have made my home habitable so that I might have a comfortable and safe place to live. But what if just a few of them decided that they didn't need to add their ability and expertise to the project. The house would then not be completed. For instance, can you imagine living in a home without a roof?
Rights Require Honest Work
The truth is, I have a right to a clean, dry and safe place to live, only if I also take responsibility to play whatever role I can to make it happen. There are no natural or spiritual laws that say that the world or the government owes me a living. Even if the government wanted to, it couldn't provide everything for the millions of people who reside in this country. The tax load would be so burdensome that it would be totally unsustainable. In the case of my home, I need to work to provide the money for those who are capable of doing the building. In some cases where finances are low, the family who needs the house could pitch in and help in any way they can, in a physical way, to see that the home is built.
It is the same thing with food and other necessities. The Bible makes it clear that we should not sustain the lazy. The Apostle Paul says this in Scripture when he writes: "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).
Paul further talks to the former thief who, before salvation, took from society illegally:
"Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need" (Ephesians 4:28).
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. There are those, who for whatever reason, are unable to contribute to society at all. Whether they be physically or mentally incapacitated, they just can't do it. In those cases, we have a God-given responsibility to take care of their needs. The Bible is full of references which say that we must take care of the widow and orphan. For instance, James tells us:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).
However, these are the minority. Most of our population is capable of taking responsibility to contribute to the nation from which they benefit.
Rights Without Responsibility Equals Selfishness
Our problems today come largely from selfishness, which is what sin is all about. It is wanting my way and not God's way. And I don't care who else it may hurt. That is why many people vote for the candidate for office who gives them all their "entitlements." Even if those entitlements bankrupt the country.
Our society has gotten a something for nothing mentality, opening the door for Socialism to rear its ugly head. This system has never worked anywhere in history. It is a government which steals from the "rich" and gives to those who haven't worked for it, because: "I am entitled!!!"
In confronting such an entitlement attitude, pastor Jeff Schreve has well said in a recent sermon: "We are to help those who cannot work and not those who will not work."
Selfishness is also seen in the way some women can say on the abortion issue: "My body, my choice" , even if it means their very offspring is destroyed in the process. It is so ego-centered that a mother forgets her natural love for her child and fails to acknowledge his or her right to life.
A selfish attitude is further displayed by the way this country can get away with amassing a debt of 19 trillion dollars and counting that could lead ultimately to a recession or even another Great Depression. We keep pushing the problem farther into the future for our children and our grandchildren to solve.
Someone has observed that just as there is in New York a Statue of Liberty, on the other end of the country there should be erected a Statue of Responsibility as well. The bottom line is that none of us is entitled to anything unless we contribute our fair share to the country which, by God's grace, has given us everything.
Washington cannot do anything to fix what's wrong with our society. They are actually contributing to the problems. What we need desperately today is another great revival in our land, in which we come back to the Lord. From this revival will come a return to the Judeo-Christian principles which have made this nation great. With the Lord's help, God's people must commit to doing this ourselves. And it all begins when each of us stops looking at others and take responsibility ourselves. We must start looking inwardly, saying: "How am I responsible for this mess? And what can I do to improve it? Then and only then will things begin to change.