Saturday, April 20, 2013

Duty Versus Consequences

Duty belongs to us; consequences belong to God.
- General Jackson
A man once had to give a speech to a group of his esteemed peers. He knew that what he had to say was the opposite of what they wanted to hear. This particular group was headed into morally questionable waters, and this man was the only one who seemed the least concerned about the direction of things. Beforehand, a friend asked him, "What is your goal? Do you think you can convince them."

"No," he answered, "But that doesn't matter. I see myself on a sinking ship. I just want to be the sole voice shouting out the truth as the ship goes down."

The realization that consequences were not important to him, not really relevant, strengthened him with strange courage. In the midst of angry responses, he gave the speech. He spoke with wild freedom: like a man who didn't care about anything but truth.

The more we meddle in consequences (what is going to happen?), the less likely we will be to attend to the work of duty (what should I do?). Why? Because we will seek to change our duty to get the consequences we most desire. Consequences don't concern us; they concern God. We do not know what the future holds. We tend to think it is BAD when considering our duty, but we may be wrong. In fact, the reality that we don't know what is going to happen is motivation to do the right thing. If we put our nose to the grindstone, and concentrate on duty -- who knows? -- not us -- what is going to happen?

The question should never be, "What is going to happen?" The question should be, "What am I going to do?"

Our attitude should be that of Esther: I will do my duty no matter what it is, and accept the consequences, not matter what they are.
Esther 4.13-16, NASB:
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 
Theodore Roosevelt, to his daughter, after negotiating peace between Russian and Japan:
It is enough to give any one a sense of sardonic amusement to see the way in which the people generally, not only in my own country but elsewhere, gage the work purely by the fact that it succeeded. If I had not brought about peace I should have been laughed at and condemned. NowI am over-praised. I am credited with being extremely longheaded, etc. As a matter of fact I took the position I finally did not of my own volition but because events so shaped themselves that I would have felt as if I was flinching from a plain duty if I had acted otherwise.

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