What is responsibility? Merriam & Webster lists the primary definition of responsibility as, “the state of being the person who caused something to happen.” Perhaps, like me, that is not the definition you most recognize. I am more familiar with definition number 2: “a duty or task that you are required or expected to do” and definition 3: “something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.” So what is the significance of the first definition?
In Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV), Yeshua tells a story of how three servants acted upon the same task and received different consequences.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more. ’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. ’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more. ’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. ’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours. ’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
So which of the three servants caused something to happen? The first two traded, invested, and multiplied their money. The third servant caused nothing to happen and was punished for it. That was irresponsibility. But the root of the problem for the third servant was not actually irresponsibility; it was fear. I do not think the third servant was punished for being lazy. He feared his master but not in the right way. He says, “I knew you were a hard man. You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed. I was afraid, so I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here! Take what belongs to you!” In other words he was saying he was afraid to touch his master’s funds even though he was placed in charge of them. He did not want to mess up because he knew his master would be very angry. Of course, he received the very thing he wanted to avoid – his master’s wrath.
How does this tie in to our lives? Yeshua called 12 disciples to follow Him. They were not the best of the best. They were not even good. They were pretty low on the totem pole. That is because He was not looking through the eyes of a human, He was looking at their hearts (See 1 Samuel 16:6-7). He knew that given the responsibility, they would step up. He knew that once they received their commission, they would not be afraid to cause something to happen. This is exactly what happened. If you read the Gospels and continue on to Acts after Yeshua ascended into heaven, you find evidence of this. How is it that similar miracles were still being performed? Because the disciples took their commission seriously demonstrated responsibility.
I think some of us are not confident enough in our trust in God and so our fear of messing up overpowers our desire to cause something to happen. God has called us to the mission field, but our response is, “Surely He meant someone else. There is no way God can use me. I’ll just take that calling, bury it in the ground, and cause nothing to happen.” Should God be feared? Absolutely, but He should be feared in a respectful manner. We should not be afraid to connect with God, represent Him, and carry out the tasks He gives us because of the possibility of messing up. Although we should avoid pridefulness, God calls us to work diligently and confidently. Call it confident humility, if you will. Do you think the High Priests were fearful to enter into the Holy of Holies with bells around their ankles tied to a rope in case they died because of sin and had to be dragged out? Absolutely! So they could either not perform their duty and avoid the burden of living blameless before Adonai, or they could go in with confidence and reverence knowing that God provided a way for them to walk out unharmed. It was their responsibility, and they knew it would be worse for them if they did not act.
Why have we lost this perseverance? Not everyone is called to go over seas to be a missionary, but all of us are called to be missionaries. That is what the commission entails. Yeshua summed up Torah (The Law) into two commandments. Matthew 22:36-40 says, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, do these two things, and you will be in alignment with God. Before He departed, Yeshua gave one final instruction, the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Yeshua says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Now you can take that and say, “God has not called me to go to <<fill in the blank>> to be a missionary. That’s for others, not me.” While God will call some to go to specific places, this commission does not apply to a specific type of person or place. Consider it a different way. Now that you accept your deliverance from sin through Yeshua’s sacrifice, identify yourself as a child of God, and desire to spend eternity with God, go and CAUSE SOMETHING TO HAPPEN in all humanity for the Kingdom of God. If you are going to Walmart, cause something to happen for the Kingdom. If you are going to school, cause something to happen for the Kingdom. If you are going to work, cause something to happen for the Kingdom. If you go the coffee shop, cause something to happen for the Kingdom. We are social creatures and almost everywhere we go there are people. Our mission is to cause something to happen for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Even on the internet you have the ability to cause something to happen for the Kingdom of God. If you bury such responsibility, the negative outcome you fear will become reality.
I find it interesting that God’s very first command is a precursor to Yeshua’s final command. In Genesis 1:28, we learn that after creating the heavens and the earth and all of the creatures that dwell on said heavens and earth, God speaks to His creation and says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” In other words, cause something to happen. Humanity depends on you going through with this. Then, Yeshua gives his last command. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In other words, be fruitful and multiply. How? Cause something to happen. This is your responsibility.
What that looks like in our lives can be different from person to person. The Apostle Saul said to the church in Ephesus, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV) That means each of us, very much like the three servants in the parable, has different skills and resources, but the mission is the same–cause something to happen.