We have always been blame shifters. Cain blamed Abel for God’s rejection of his sacrifice (Gen. 4:8). Saul blamed David for his woes (1 Sam. 18:8-9). The Pharisees didn’t deny Judas’ admission of guilt but cast it on him alone to bear (Mt. 27:3-6).
Shifting the Blame
Viewed through modern eyes, we would even explain their actions as follows:
- Yes, Cain did wrong, but his sense of self-confidence and attempt at generosity was damaged by God’s rejection of his offering. It was this vulnerability, likely passed on due to his own father’s inadequate affirmation of his masculinity and worth, that is the likely cause of his response.
- It’s true that Saul was hard on David and should have treated his servant better, but Saul struggled with a sense of inadequacy and would have benefitted from some counselling to help him get to the root of his insecurities. Had he had some good therapy-and some medication to calm his suspicious mind-his actions would likely have been curbed and the history of Israel’s monarchy would have been markedly different.
- Judas’ betrayal was a slimy move, but a man living in 1st century occupied Israel had few options available to better himself. His parents probably didn’t teach him impulse control, and he didn’t factor into Jesus’ inner circle-the one Peter, James & John were in-which probably fed his desperation for fatherly affirmation. His acceptance of money from the Pharisees was likely motivated by greed but also an attempt to get recognition from people in places of authority. His self-murder then was likely induced by a total rejection of his person by religious authorities.
Who is to Blame?
It is not my intention to dismiss all human insights into our own behaviour. There is wisdom in observing people, noting patterns of thinking and emotion and considering how they affect our choices. I too have spent much time considering societal influences upon my own sins and behaviours and have found it helpful. There is a place for counsellors and therapists and sociologists to study human behaviour and offer insights that can be used to assist people to think through the things that influence our choices. But hear this: The Bible consistently calls disobedience to God’s commands “sin” and habitually lays the full burden of responsibility for our choices on us. The root cause of Cain’s homicidal actions, Saul’s hatred, and Judas’ betrayal is their willful rebellion against God’s holy commands. As such, each of these men will fully account to God for their sins without the option to lay blame on anyone else. Consider the Word of God, as our Creator assesses us all:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5)
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery. (Mk. 7:21)
People loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (Jn. 3:19b)
The core cause of all our evil actions is sin, and each of us is personally responsible for them (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev 20:11-15). When we stand before God in judgement, God will not accept psychological profiles, therapeutic advocates, references to poor parenting, or claims of ignorance. There will be no room for blame-shifting; don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise.
Grace is Not Grace if We are not to Blame
Human responsibility for our actions is a sobering fact, but thankfully we have a Creator who offers us grace if we humbly accept his help, and who wants to reshape our thinking and empower us to change through his transformative Word. The Word of God can transform the most broken and depraved heart and heal the most twisted mind. History is full of such examples: an adulterous and murderous king (David), a Jesus-denier (Peter), and a persecutor of God’s church (Paul) all stand as examples of people who confessed their own sin, took full responsibility for it and were restored.
Grace is not grace if we are not to blame. The Word is not all-sufficient if we need to buttress it with human insights in order to change. Those that would teach otherwise do so because they have either (1) lost confidence in God’s Word, (2) have not sufficiently been transformed by it, or (3) are more smitten by their own clever insights into human nature than they are with God’s.
So, continue to receive God’s Word, obey it, and allow it to progressively heal you one day at a time, all the while living in awe of God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9).