Seeking counsel does not absolve us from the importance of making the right decision (Prov 11.14), nor from taking responsibility should our “counseled” decisions return to us as a mistake (Matt 5.23-24).
The Scriptures are very clear that we cannot “pass the buck” when it comes to our responsibilities. Every action – public or private – will be scrutinized by a Holy God (Eccl 12.14).
The Blame Game
“Passing the buck” is such a common saying that we tend to be ignorant of its origin. President Truman has been associated with this saying, but actually it is a term from the game of poker as played in the frontier days of the American story.
During these days a marker or counter was a knife with a buckhorn handle – the “buck”. It “was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal”; moreover:
If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the ‘buck,’ as the counter came to be called, to the next player (TrumanLibrary.org).
Hence, “pass the buck” means to pass the responsibility on to someone else.
In Truman’s “farewell address” he affirms “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” (TrumanLibrary.org).
The saying applies to us all; no one can make our decisions for us. No excuses. This is personal responsibility. Consider two examples.
(A) The First Blame Game
In the early days of the human family, Adam and Eve succumbed to the subtlety of the serpent’s questions regarding the forbidden fruit. When the Lord asked them concerning their actions, Adam and Eve attempt to distance themselves from the responsibility of their actions by placing upon either their spouse, or the creature (Gen 3.8-13).
(B) Giving in to Others is Not an Excuse
In early years of the Kingdom of Israel, King Saul was called upon to wage war upon the Amalekites. In fact, Saul was charged specifically to “go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have” (1 Sam 15.3; Lev 27.28).
Upon return from their victory over Amalek, Saul returns with the choice items of the plunders of war – which he was not suppose to return with. Moreover, he returns with the King (15.9). As a consequence, the prophet Samuel questions the king regarding the bleating of the sheep and lowing of the oxen (15.14).
The king places the burden of the decision to disobey God’s command upon the people, attempting to absolve himself from moral responsibility (15.9, 15, 20-21); yet, the king was completely complicit (15.9). Nevertheless, despite the action of others the Lord was displeased with Saul and it cost him his throne (15.17-19, 26).
(A) Accepting the Burden of our Decisions without Excuses
When David is presented with a parable, he unwittingly condemns himself for the adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11.1-5), a failed cover-up (11.6-13), and the murder of Uriah (11.14-27).
Instead of passing the buck, David accepts accountability and the consequences of his sin. Unlike the many cases of Saul’s incessant impudence, denying his sins – David quickly moves to being convicted of heart. One only needs to read Psalm 51 in order to see his contrition for his sins before God.
(B) Our Future is Based upon Decisions Made Today
When the Kingdom of Judah was exiled into captivity in the 7th-6th century BC, one of the concerns raised is the following: “Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities” (Lam 5.7). The exile was a time where the question of sin and responsibility, and accountability before the Lord was pondered.
In Ezekiel 14.12-23, the prophet makes it clear that even if many Old Testament faithful were alive during the days of the exile, men like Noah, Daniel and Job would be saved and delivered from the exile because they are righteous. Unlike the rebellious character of the generation of the exile, righteous people could experience deliverance.
This is heavily answered in chapter 18; in particular verses 19-20:
Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. (18.19 ESV)
The son can escape the consequences of his father’s sin by living faithful to the Lord. We must realize that our futures are partly shaped by our decisions.