Before we begin, a little background is in order. This will be a random post. It has not been written to fit into any of my ‘themed’ series on this blog page. It was inspired by a conversation I was having with a friend of my in connection to a conversation I was having with a listener to Steve Nichols’ Morning Drive talk radio show out of Valdosta, Georgia. Normally, I prefer to use specific examples when I write. I feel they make it easier to understand what I am trying to communicate. However, in this case, I’d have to write a post about the conversation and then write this one responding to that conversation. I think I did enough of that last week with my posts to ‘Richard.’ Therefore, in the interest of keeping this post relevant to random readers, I have decided to ‘generalize’ the topic at hand.
The topic is complicated. I was discussing morality: more specifically, how duty and virtue are related to the concept of morality. In the end, my friend and I seem to have arrived at the conclusion that duty is something we are all responsible for doing, but virtue is the act of actually performing that duty. In other words, we all have duties to each other. They are part of the Social Contract that formed our society. If we believe in God, we have duties to Him, as well. However, having a duty does not make one a moral or virtuous person. Only those people who actually perform their duties can be called moral or virtuous.
Unfortunately, there are far too many people in this world who seem to think they can claim to be virtuous by transferring their duty to some one or something else. This simply is not the case A duty belongs to the individual. It is inherent to that individual. It cannot be taken or given away — not even by agreement. Similarly, virtue only applies to the person who performs their individual duty. Thus, even if an individual could transfer an individual duty, they still could not claim to be virtuous. if the person or thing they transferred that duty to performed that transferred duty, then that person or thing could claim to be virtuous, but not the person who transferred their duty. In fact, the person who passed of their duty would rightfully be could dishonest, dishonorable, evil, sinful, unethical, unrighteous, wicked: take your pick, they are all antonyms of virtuous.
I honestly do not know a better way to explain what I am trying to say than to use Scripture. Therefore, I’ll start with a meme I have already used; a meme that makes my point clearly and forcefully:
Jesus placed a personal, individual duty on His disciples (followers) to care for those who are truly in need. Christ never said to put this duty off on government. In fact, Jesus said to give to the Caesar (government) that which is Caesar’s (government’s), and to give to God that which is God’s. If a believer were to try to put off the commandment to be charitable onto government, this would not be a virtuous act. Among other reasons, it would be disobedient to the Lord. But it would also destroy the notion of charity. This is because taxes are not voluntary, and charity demands a voluntary act of will. It is part of the very definition of charity. So, if one puts their duty to be charitable off on government, then charity is destroyed and replaced by theft masquerading as charity. That is how the devil works, not God or His people.
Jesus gave us other examples. He said to honor our father and mother. Well, first, we no longer understand what it means to ‘honor’ our parents, so we go astray right from the start. But setting this aside, many believers have assumed that this commandment ends when we leave our parents’ household. It doesn’t, so we go wrong again. In most cases, we have learned to put off our duty to our parents onto government and/or insurance companies. In most cases, we expect the government to provide for our elderly parents. There is no virtue n this. In some cases, we may pay for a retirement or nursing home, but there is no virtue in this, either. This is because, even if we pay for it, we are still putting off our individual duty to care for (not provide for) our parents onto the retirement or nursing home. The Lord said we — personally — are to honor (i.e. obey and care for, etc) our parents. That command is personal to each believer and ends with the death of both of the believer’s parents.
I could beat this point for a long time, but I have to assume the reader either sees it by now, or the reader likely never will. Either way, the fact that duty cannot be transferred, and that there is no virtue in trying to do so are Truths with a capital ‘T.’ We all have duties. If we do them willingly, we are virtuous. If we ignore them, we are not virtuous. If we seek to push them off on others, or worse, to force others to do them for us, then we are the opposite of virtuous (dishonest, dishonorable, evil, sinful, unethical, unrighteous, wicked). No amount of mental or logical gymnastics will change this. All an attempt to alter this Truth does is add to the ‘not virtuous’ behavior a person may have already done. This is because we have a duty to the truth, therefore, trying to twist the truth is not virtuous.
I started out by telling you this post was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. My friend is the one who boiled this issue down to duty and virtue: we all have duties, but only the virtuous person does them willingly. I was happy to accept this definition –mostly because it seems to be true (capital ‘T’). But there is another aspect of this general discussion my friend and I did not discuss: that is the flaw in human nature that seems to drive so many of us to avoid taking personal responsibility for ourselves and our actions. I suppose that should be the topic for another post, but it is what is at the heart of the desire to push off our personal duties onto other people. We want others to be responsible, even if we are the one who did or was supposed to do it. This troubles me a great deal, especially when the people seeking to avoid responsibility also expect to be counted as virtuous. I’m sorry, I cannot and will never understand how such people arrive at this position: where they can tell other people to do their work and expect to be given the credit for having done that work. The most charitable explanation I can think of is that they have blinded themselves through their own pride and arrogance. Honestly, I hope this is the case, because the only other option I can think of is much, much less charitable — and that is that they are most likely just wicked or evil people. 😦