President Truman had a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” It seems someone close to the president saw this sign in a Reformatory and asked if a desk sign could be made for the president. It is likely the origin of the phrase came from the idea of “passing the buck” which originated in poker games where a buckskin knife was passed from one dealer to another. If someone didn’t want to deal, he would simply pass the buck. We understand “the buck stops here” applies to the person who bears the ultimate responsibility. Hosea wrote, “Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame! Look, you priests, my complaint is with you.” (Hosea 4:4) This is a chilling statement for those priests. God is a God who holds people responsible for their actions. “To whom much is given much is required.” God recognizes degrees of responsibilities. Having been in various positions of spiritual leadership for over 50 years a passage that has kept me sober is found in Hebrews 13:17. “Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” The story of Matthew 25 where three servants were given money to invest were held accountable for their work. Paul explains in 1 Cor.3 that a Christian minister’s work will be tested by fire to see what is made of. Is it wood, hay, or straw, or is it gold, silver, and precious stones? Ezekiel introduces us to watchman on the wall who will be judged by the warnings he gives. (Ezekiel 3:16-27)
It seems these days, at least in government, that the people at the top are rarely held responsible for the responsibilities under their charge. I remember when Nixon resigned in shame, after lying to the American people, about his involvement and coverup of what we know as Watergate. At least he finally owned up to it and boarded the executive helicopter for the last time. What is it about man that either does not want to accept the blame or shifts the blame to another? Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. The smallest child will rat out his brother before fessing up. The priests were pointing the finger at others. God pointed His finger at them. The priest Eli who raised godly Samuel had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, “scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD or their duties as priests.” (1 Samuel 2:12-13) They were extorting food from the parishioners and seducing young women at the entrance to the tabernacle. (Read 1 Samuel 2:12-36.) They died on the same day and their father Eli fell backwards and broke his neck when he heard of it and that the Ark of the Covenant had been taken. When priests shirk their duties the presence of the Lord is removed. Is it any wonder what Brother James tells us in James 3:1, “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness.” Blind guides land everyone in the ditch.
If our families are going astray the buck stops with fathers. If our churches are weak and ineffective, the buck stops with church leaders. If our government is corrupt and derelict in duty, the buck stops with the elected leaders on every level. We must choose more carefully who we select to lead us. One sign we have chosen wrongly is someone who points the finger at someone else instead of accepting what happens on their watch. We need to spend less time trying to figure out who is to blame and more time stepping up to the bar and accepting the blame.