The Buck Stops Here (Exodus 19-22)

If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. (Exodus 21:29)

You might be tempted to think that President Truman was the first person to take responsibility for his own actions with his famous statement, “The Buck Stops Here,” but that would not be true – he simply made doing so popular for a short period of time.  It’s fascinating to note that the instructions God gave to the Israelites had a large portion of personal responsibility attached to them.

In this particular law, if your bull were to gore someone even though you knew it had a prior history of gorings, then you’d be responsible for the damages of future gorings.

God was teaching His people something very important: you have to be responsible for your own behavior, which in this case would be keeping a dangerous bull in your custody.

Sometimes being responsible means facing the consequences of your actions.  Unfortunately, Truman’s adage seems to be lost in modern America.  The expectation now is that you should pass the blame and avoid the consequences of the decisions that you’ve made.  Even within Christianity, there can be a feeling that grace should mean that we don’t have consequences.  That’s a nice idea, but it’s not biblical.

When you make a decision, it’s like choosing one path over another.  Each path has its own consequences – good or bad.  Grace means that God no longer holds our sins against us (i.e. our standing with Him doesn’t change), but we still face the consequences of the path we chose to walk down.  A convicted murdered who comes to faith doesn’t suddenly get let off the hook.  He may end up in heaven, but he still pays the price on earth for the crime he committed.

God’s way of doing things is one of taking responsibility for your actions.  If you hurt someone, go and make it right.  If you stole something, return it to the owner.  If you don’t work because you’d rather play video games, then don’t go begging for food.  Whatever path you walk on determines the consequences – good or bad – that you will face in life.

Lord, help me to accept responsibility for my actions.  Keep me from inconveniencing someone else – from making someone else clean up the messes that I create with my own hands.  Help me to choose paths that are full of Your blessings.  

About Seth

Seth is a pastor, author, and speaker who lives in Batesville, Indiana. He is married to Kari, and they have two daughters, Madelyn and Noelle.


  1. Just as you stated Seth, actions do have consequences. We try to teach it to our children as they grow up and I have to be mindful of my actions daily. Particularily when we think that those actions go unnoticed. I really like 22:3 ” a thief is to pay back double, or if he is unable to make restitution he is to be sold to pay for the theft.” That may put a real damper on future crimes.

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