Thursday, April 27, 2017

The ‘Biblical’ Art of Buck Passing

Have you ever noticed the ways people respond when accused – with ample evidence – of wrongdoing? Actually, there are a variety of options, but here I’ll focus on just two:

Some deny it outright, as we so often see in the political realm, as well as the business world, and other influential segments of our society. “I (we) did nothing wrong. Wrongfully accused! No way, Jose!” Of course, you don’t have to be a high-ranking politicians or corporate executive. Even toddlers, as soon as they can distinguish wrong from right, discover the art of denying wrong, even with crumb-covered hands caught in the proverbial cookie jar.

"Who, me?!" Why did God give us 
fingers, if not to be able 
to point them and blame others?
Another approach is the ever-popular “passing of the buck.” Again, we see elected government officials employing this strategy with great skill, casting blame on someone down the line of authority, insisting they had no personal knowledge of wrongs committed. Business leaders can be equally adept, assigning fault to lower-level execs and managers, all the while pleading, “I had no idea!”

If you think this is a relatively new development, however, think again. It first appeared in the pristine Garden of Eden, where Eve and then Adam defied God – heeding the strong suggestion of Satan instead – and sampled fruit from the one tree in the entire garden the Lord had said was off limits.

When God asked what they had done, first Adam and then Eve deftly passed the buck long before currency had been invented. When asked, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11), Adam boldly answered, “The woman You put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (verse 12).

Isn’t it amazing? Never in the short history of mankind had such a bald-faced lie been uttered, and yet Adam succeeded in such a doozey that no one has topped it in the thousands of years since. First, by implication, he blamed God for his wrongdoing. “You know that woman You put here with me? She told me to do it.” He might just as well have said, “God, it’s Your fault. If you hadn’t given Eve to me, I never would have thought of doing such a thing!”

Eve was hardly innocent in this first deception. When God asked what she had done, the first woman replied, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). She didn’t redirect blame toward God, but did the next worst thing: She blamed Satan. Long before comedian Flip Wilson’s “Geraldine” character uttered the words, Eve was telling her Creator, “The devil made me do it!”

The Bible offers many other examples; Moses’ brother Aaron and Israel’s King Saul were world-class perpetrators.

When Moses was long overdue in descending from Mount Sinai where he was meeting with God, Aaron yielded to the demands of the Israelites and fashioned an idol, a golden calf, for them to worship. After Moses had come down from the mountain and confronted his brother, Aaron replied, “You know how prone these people are to evil…they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (Exodus 32:19-24). In other words, Aaron said, “Hey, don’t blame it. It’s all their fault!” (Note: He also lied about how the calf came to be. Why stop with one untruth when you can commit two, right?)

Saul did much the same when the prophet Samuel’s arrival was later than expected and the fierce Philistines were approaching. The Scriptures say, “all the troops with him were quaking with fear.” Bowing to the grumbling of the Israelites, Saul performed sacrifices to God, a responsibility reserved exclusively for the Levitical priests.

When Samuel finally showed up, he asked a simple question, “What have you done?” Saul exhibited his buck-passing skills when he replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time…I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” (1 Samuel 12:7-14). With one ill-considered decision, one he would sadly replicate not long after, the king whose reign had started so well wrote his own a termination notice.

There are more examples, but it’s clear the Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the characters it presents, flawed, sinful individuals that for whatever reason decided denial was a better option than admission of guilt.

As I suggested early on, there are other ways we respond when our own wrongdoing is uncovered. But those will have to wait until next time, along with some thoughts about the pros and cons of “fessin’ up.”

No comments: