By Jeffery Kingry
A wise man once said, “A man’s character is the sum of all the decisions he has made in his life.” When we discuss character, and what makes people what they are, we overlook this simple fact. Have you ever wondered why some people are nothing while folks from the same background somehow turn out to be just the opposite. I believe the answer lies not in man’s environment or his genetic makeup, but in each man himself.
When I was a child a next door neighbor had a Japanese “pinball” machine. A lever was cocked and released and a small steel ball the size of a pea was launched up in the air to come clattering down, bouncing and careening off hundreds of little pins that changed the direction of the ball-till finally it came to rest in one of several cups placed about the interior of the machine. The object of the game was to hit the “jackpot” cup: the hardest cup to reach, right in the middle of the board, guarded on all sides by the pins of destiny. The “way” into the cup was barely large enough for the steel ball to pass. It would be no accident if the ball went in. We used to sit for hours, fascinated with the infinite variety of ways the ball would find to bounce down. On the rare occasion that the ball would hit the “jackpot” cup, we would painstakingly try to recreate the way that we had done it.
In a way, this is how life is. Only it is not the law of probability that determines whether we reach the “jackpot,” but the either-or choices we make day by day. The response we make to each decision we must make determines which way we are going to “bounce.” Every soul receives the same initial shot into the arena of life. All are confronted with the same “pins of destiny”: decisions that must be made. Life is lived a second at a time. Every man is confronted with choices-the responses of man to those choices makes him what he is. `Lot chose him all the plains of Jordan” (Gen. 13:11). Lot’s character was not fully formed when he stood with his uncle surveying the land seeking to make a choice where to pitch his tents. But the loss and sorrow he saw years later when his substance was destroyed, his wife dead, his sons and daughters gone, his youngest daughters corrupted and pregnant through incest, started when he made that first selfish decision to take the “best part” from Abraham. He chose the plain-he chose to pitch his tent towards Sodom-he chose to live in Sodom. Lot’s character developed in the opposite direction of Abraham.
Joshua knew the power of the right choice in determining character, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Josh. 24:15)! Our day by day choices make us what we are. So often we see a young person who walks the edge of what is right. She begins to wear her skirt shorter, her makeup thicker, her sweater tighter. The choices are made, the character is formed and before long she is lost to the Lord and her-family. Any who have eyes to see have witnessed it. The young man who is silently sullen, who uses “little deceits” to conceal his actions from those who might rebuke him. His parents and brethren might jokingly chide him about his long hair or the hickey on his neck. They are hurt and wonder “why?” when he grows to be a man that has no use for morality or godly living.
Responsibility Is Respond-Abiiity
Jay Adams in his book Competent To Counsel noted, “What is responsibility? Responsibility is the ability to respond as God says man should respond to every life situation, in spite of difficulties.” God declares that every man will be judged according to his deeds whether they be good or evil. This implies respond-ability in man. Man cannot approach God with his sins and seek to justify them by minimizing them, by imputing them to others, by blaming environment or circumstances. Man is responsible. He doesn’t have to sin. Every man has the ability to make right choices according to God’s word. “There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man: But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Each time we make a decision to do evil we step away from God and bend our character in the direction of Satan. Very many steps in the wrong direction produces a character more like the Devil than God. In the church we see brethren that ignore such passages as Matt. 5:23, 24 and Matt. 18:11-17 and let their brethren die in sin. The responsible Christian goes to his brother to change his behavior. Brethren who ignore sin in their own lives or the lives of others will reap the eternal consequences. What we are, and what we will be is determined by the choices we make now. Do we stand with God, or do we stand alone. What is your choice?
Truth Magazine XIX: 32, pp. 509-510
June 19, 1975