Buck Passing

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, 2 Samuel 23:1-7, 13-17, Acts 25:13-27, Mark 13:1-13


“The buck stops here.”
– Popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman

For two years Governor Felix let Paul languish in prison. On his way out he left him there as a favor to the Jews and as a problem for his successor, Festus. Festus didn’t know what to do with Paul. The charges against him were not Roman crimes, but Jewish conflicts.  To avoid an unfair trial in Jerusalem, Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor. Yet, with no clear charges, Festus didn’t know how to explain to Rome why Paul had been sent for trial.

No one, it seems, was both willing and able to take ownership of this problem.

We see this kind of buck-passing in modern government as well. Lots of complaining, but few actual solutions – or proposed solutions which, while of questionable merit, conveniently don’t take effect until after the next election cycle. In our civic lives, we eagerly point fingers at those people who we believe (correctly or incorrectly) cause problems, but rarely do we look at ourselves to consider how we contribute to the very problems we condemn. For example, we don’t like the presence of illegal migrant farm workers, but our insistence on artificially low prices for produce makes them necessary for the agricultural industry. In our personal lives, we can be quick to blame others for our own shortcomings. Think of feuding siblings who blame each other for the years they’ve spent not speaking.

We need to stop passing the buck, and take ownership of our problems.

One of the first steps is realizing a solution often means moving past what seems “fair” to us and onto what makes things right.  If it seems unfair to be the sibling who offers an olive branch when we believe the other person has wronged us, maybe we could ask Jesus if he complained about fairness on the cross. Christ teaches us not to condemn or demand, but to love sacrificially. If we must pass a buck, let it be to someone who needs it more.


Comfort: With God’s help, you have more solutions inside you thank you think you do.

Challenge: Don’t complain about things you’re not willing to help change.

Prayer: Loving God, help me to be a healing presence in the world. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever realized you were contributing to a problem you blamed on other people?

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