“Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments (ordinances), which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.”Nehemiah 1:6-7
I was told by a coworker that we received an email from our executive director advising us that she had a book for us in her office. I thought nothing of it, but read the email and learned we were to pick up the book and read it. We were going to meet weekly and discuss the book, and we would need to read a chapter a week. I went to her office, thanked her for the book and left, not super excited to add work to my plate. I rolled my eyes on the inside and sighed as I walked out of her office, and I was baffled that she would send this email on a Friday to be part of this book club. The book was not said to be mandatory, but I took the hint that I would be responsible for knowing the content of the book. I threw it on my desk and figured I would read it at some point, but I was not taking it home over the weekend as my plans did not include this book.
I started reading the book, which turned out to be pretty good, and I even went past the first chapter as I was quite engaged in the reading. It is a secular book, but God started to show me spiritual things through it, and I was convicted by the recurring point of extreme ownership in any given situation. The book spoke of leadership and leading a team, but God spoke to me about the personal accountability and responsibility I had in my own life. I was responsible and accountable for the sins in my life, and for the ministries He has given me the opportunity to lead. We often revert to blaming others for our mistakes and failures, and we even blame circumstances or others for our poor decisions which are often sinful. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, but none of them looked within and took responsibility for their sinful actions. There was no falling on their knees and crying out to God for their sin, but they instead hid themselves and accused others once confronted by God.
I often have blamed others for my sin or tried to explain it away. I have used my excuses and at times I have struggled taking ownership for my actions. I grew up in a home that did not allow for excuses, and we were held accountable for our sinful actions and failures. I remember reading The Family Circus and seeing the tracks made in the house and a little ghost-like figure that had “Not Me” written in the blank space of the figure. I laughed at this as a child because I knew that excuse would not fly in my house. There was only two of us kids so it was not hard to figure out what happened, and once my sister went off to college, the spotlight was solely on me. I tried hard to blame my teachers, friends, and anyone I could, but my parents held no sympathy for my excuses and did not play my blame game. I sometimes grew frustrated as I wanted them to give me a pass as it made sense to me that I could not possibly be responsible for all of my errors and sins. People had made me mad or my teacher did a poor job in explaining my homework assignment. I did not get to wiggle out of my sins, and my backside took extreme ownership of my mistakes.
I am convicted by the prayer of Nehemiah as he did not blame anyone for his sin, but he took full responsibility. Much like the great leaders I was reading about in my book, Nehemiah exhibited extreme ownership in how he confessed his sins before almighty God. He was not part of a Navy Seal team, but God heard the cries of a leader who confessed his sins and the sins of the people. When our judgement time comes, we will not offer excuses to God for the sins we have committed. We will not be able to blame our upbringing or the offenses others have committed against us, but we will be held accountable for our sin. We must learn to take extreme ownership of our actions and be accountable and responsible for our actions. We all have blamed someone else or our circumstances, but Nehemiah gives us a godly example of one who confessed his sins before almighty God.
Who or what have you been blaming for your sinful actions? Have you blamed your parents? The church you grew up in? The people who have wronged you? The people at work who seem to frustrate you? How about the person who rubs you the wrong way? There is never an excuse for sin, and we will be held accountable for our actions. Will you take the course of Adam and Eve, or will you follow the lead of Nehemiah? May we be quick to point the finger at ourselves when we sin, and may we take extreme ownership of our relationship with God and be quick to confess our sins to Him. My parents never allowed me to use excuses, and we will not be able to utter them before a just and holy God. Excuses do not change things, but confessing and crying out to God are sweet words to His ears. Be responsible and accountable to Him!