Saturday, December 23, 2006

Caring means Loving our Neighbour

This picture was painted by my mother especially for the blog


I’m still talking about the 6 pillars of Character – Remember what they are? That’s TeRRiFiCC!! Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.

In my last blog, I was talking about Caring, and I pointed to a few examples of Caring that I found in the Old Testament. I mentioned I would write about the “Good Samaritan” in my next blog.

1 John 3:16-18 says

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Read the parable as Jesus told it in Luke 10:25 – 37. Instead of merely recounting the story, I hope you will allow me a little artistic licence and since it is Christmas time, I thought it would be fun to relate the story Pantomime style. This panto is set in South Africa, in 2006. (Actually, it’s more of skit than a full on Panto!)

The Cast

The Narrator: Jesus himself.

A Bible school student: Young man, early 20’s, rides a mountain bike, carries a Bible in a Bible bag, complete with notebook, and pen.

The traveler: Ordinary South African, middle-class, drives a nice car, but not too flashy.

Hijackers: need I say more?

Tele-evangelist: Flash looking, tailored suit, fancy hair-style. Chauffer driven Merc (latest model.) Speaks with an affected American Drawl.

Tele-evangelist’s chauffeur: Wears a chauffeur uniform.

Deacon Fred: Middle aged, conservative dress (smart), short back and sides haircut. Drives a Ford pick-up. His accent suggests he was educated at a private Boys school in Kwazulu-Natal.

Sam: Rather eccentric, a bit hippie, drives a multi-coloured VW-Beetle. Wears a bandana round his bald head. Accent and language is hip and happening. “Yeah dude!, W’sup?”

NB: All characters (except Jesus) are fictional and any similarity between them and people in real life is entirely, co-incidental.

Note all vehicles, except the student’s bike are stage set facades, only the side of the vehicle.

The Story

Curtains open and the Narrator is walking down a road. The Bible school student recognizes the Narrator as one of his/her lecturers. He catches up and stops to talk to him.

Bible Student (BS): Good morning sir! Having a nice day?

Narrator: Yes, actually thought I’d take advantage of the lovely weather to get some exercise, and you, where are you off to today?

BS: Oh, just taking a ride down to the local shop, thought I might see if there’s anyone I can persuade to come to church tomorrow. Tell me sir, what would you say, if someone asked: “How can I inherit eternal life?”

Narrator: Well, what would you say to them?

BS: Well in Deuteronomy 6 verse 5 it says “Love the Lord your heart and all your soul and all your strength”

Narrator: Mmmm

BS: And Leviticus 19 verse 18b says: Love your neighbour as yourself.

Narrator: So, what’s the problem, if you can do that, you will be alright.

BS: Yes, well, I suppose so, but suppose they ask “Who is my neighbour?” What do I say then?

Narrator: Let me tell you a story…..

Narrator and BS move to the side. As the Narrator speaks, the traveler comes on stage in his Peugeot Station Wagon. He’s traveling alone.

Narrator: A young businessman was driving down to Durban, from Jo’burg. He was going through Van Reenen’s Pass, when he pulled into a lay-by to stretch his legs. No sooner had he pulled over, [Enter hijackers – they act out the attack as it is being told] when a whole lot of hijackers jumped out of the bush, and knocked him down. They punched and kicked him, and he was in a bad way. They hit him so hard on the head that his ears were ringing. He felt like his whole body was on fire. They frisked him and relieved him of his wallet and his cell-phone. They then jumped into his car, and drove away at top speed down the highway. [exit hijackers and traveler’s car] The poor man just lay there, hoping that someone might come past and notice him.

BS: What happened next? Did the guy die?

Narrator: No, but he needed medical attention. A few minutes after the attack, a big chauffeur driven Mercedes drove past. In the back, rode a well known tele-evangelist, The Reverend Matt Bishop.

Chauffeur and Tele-Evangelist come on stage in a Merc. Emblazoned on the side of the car are the words “BISHOP MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL”

Chauffeur: Hey, did you see that man lying on the ground? It looks like he’s been attacked. Do you think we should stop and help him?

Tele-Evangelist: Are you mad, man? We have a HEALING SHOW, I mean service tonight at 6 p.m. in Durban and we need to get to my hotel room by 3:30 p.m. so that I can get in my beauty sleep, before I start getting ready. We haven’t got time to stop and mess around.

Narrator: So they carried on their merry way, without a second thought for the poor man. A short time later, Deacon Fred came along the road. He was heading up to Jo’burg. He saw, our traveler lying on the ground and writhing in pain.

Deacon Fred: (to himself but out loud) That’s truly awful! The crime in this country is out of control. That poor fellow’s probably lost everything he has. Hope, he’s insured. The government really should do something about all this crime. I’d love to be able to help him, but you can never be too careful. After all, it may be a trap! As soon as I stop, they will jump out and steal my car. Still, I suppose I should pray for him…

BS: What did he pray?

Narrator: I don’t know, I don’t think God heard him.

BS: Well, did the guy just die there?

Narrator: No, not long after Deacon Fred, Sam drove past in his VW Beetle.

Sam comes on stage in the multi-coloured VW beetle and almost immediately notices the traveler in the lay-by. He pulls over.

Sam: Hey dude, what happened to you, man? You look pretty bad, man. Ag Shame. What can I do? Hey Dude, all this blood you’re losing, we need to get to a doc, like yesterday man. Hijacked hey? Poor guy. Hey, I’d give you tea or something, but you shouldn’t drink anything, in case you need an operation and they need to give you an anesthetic. Got this first aid kit in my car, carry it just in case. [takes out first aid kit, puts on Rubber gloves, removes bandages, ointment, etc.] Chill dude, it’s okay. Don’t thank me, it’s the least I could have done. Let me just get some ointment on this cut here, and then I will bandage it up. My bandages aren’t much, but they’re only temporary. The hospital will do a much better job. Now let’s see. How should we do this? Wait! I can’t move you, in case you’ve broken your back, or something. [Pause – puts ear near the traveler] What? You think your back’s ok. Okay listen, I’ll just get Herbie over here then, and you can lie down on the back seat while I take you to the nearest hospital. Sam, gets in “Herbie” and drives closer to the traveler. Sam gently helps Traveler to his feet and moves. Easy does it now! He helps him “get in” and then drives off stage.

Narrator: Later at the hospital, Sam made sure that the traveler was settled in, and had been seen by a doctor. He paid a deposit to cover the man’s hospitalization, and left his name and address, so that the hospital could forward the full account to him.

The Narrator: Well, who was a neighbour to that traveller?

BS: It the guy who stopped and helped him.

The Narrator: Yes, now you see, we need to be like him. He may not fit your mould of the “ideal Christian,” but he showed his love in practical ways. The best preaching is often done without words!

In the parable, as Jesus told it, the supposed heroes, the priest and the Levite, actually turn out to be the villains. The Samaritan, who was despised, emerged as the real hero of the story.

The message of the parable is clear: Your neighbour is everyone and anyone you come into contact with, regardless of race, religion or any other perceived difference. From the passage in 1 John quoted at the beginning, and many more beside, we learn that loving our neighbour means much more than merely mouthing the words, it must come from the heart, and it must be practical. It means being compassionate to everyone. It means we must care.

I’d like to say thanks to Mum for reading through umpteen drafts and giving her input especially in regard to correct English. Thanks too, to my nephew, and gave me a few pointers in writing this script. You input is valued. Thanks to you readers, and those who give me feedback. Now I wrote this skit just as kind of different way to tell the story, but if you want to use it, feel free. (I’d appreciate being told about it.)

In next blog, (the last on this topic) I will look at some of the excuses people make to justify their own failure to care.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Heart: Caring
No, It is not Valentine’s Day. The subject of this blog is the value of Caring, the fifth of six values promoted by The Character Counts foundation.


Caring occurs at many levels and in many different ways. Because of this, it is hard to define in a succinct sentence. For the purpose of this discussion, I shall restrict myself to “caring for people,” although we also should care for animals, our environment, and property. I have highlighted the word in RED because Red is the colour ascribed to it by the Character Counts! Foundation.



What springs to mind when I think of CARING is the relationship between a parent and a child. Either the parent cares for the child, in terms of the child’s physical and emotional needs, or later in life, the child is caring for his or her parent in a similar way. It is widely accepted and expected that a parent should take care of his her child, provide food, shelter and clothing and then beyond an atmosphere in which the child can develop intellectually, physically and emotionally. A parent provides security for the child and a parent does his or her best to shield their child from harm.


Not wanting to undermine or diminish the familial obligation to care, it does stretch beyond that.


If we look in the Bible, we can see many examples of caring:


Pharaoh’s Daughter & Moses.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. “Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.


Then his sister [Miriam] asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”


“Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”- Exodus 2:5-10


Shobi, Makir and Barzillai bring needed supplies to David and his men during the revolt of Absolom;

When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert.” – 2 Samuel 17:27-29


These are just two examples, in the Old Testament that speak of people who showed compassion, and as a result took practical steps to help. Clearly, God used these people, in circumstances that God’s people found themselves. Clearly Pharaoh’s daughter was not Jewish. As I will point out in the next blogs,


Caring should be not be reserved for our own families, or even our own racial, ethnic or cultural group, but should be extended to everyone.


 Pharaoh’s daughter did not focus on the fact that Moses was a Jew, though the text makes it clear that she knew he was one of the Hebrew babies, but what she focused on was that there was a baby in need. Yes the Lord moved in her heart and so orchestrated the situation to bring about his desired result, just as he may call on you to be caring to fellow human being who needs your help.


I had not previously read this story of Shobi, Makir and Barzillai.


The son of Nahash. Nahash, king of the Ammonites was no friend of the Jewish people. It is not clear here if the word “son” is literally implied, or meaning descendent of Nahash but the point to note in this context is that Shobi was not Jewish. Interesting background on Nahash can be found in 1Sam. 11 and 12:12


Son of Ammiel. He was Jewish. He lived in the land of Lo Debar (meaning pastureless). Makir cared for Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan from the time he was a child of 5 years old into adulthood. It would be reasonable to assume that Makir took on the role of foster father of Mephibosheth when he was brought to him. Some years later, David called for Mephibosheth, and to honour his covenant with Mephibosheth’s father and David’s very close friend, Jonathan, David took steps to ensure that Mephibosheth was provided for the rest of his life. You can read it in 2 Samuel 9:1-13 . Looking at the timeline, we can safely assume that Makir was by this an old man.


Described as a Gileadite , Barzillai was of the half tribe of Mannasseh. Gilead, the place, was east of the Jordan River. Could it be that Barzillai was regarded as a bit of an “outsider?” We read more about Barzillai in 1 Sam 19 where the account of David’s return to the palace. We learn from that passage that Barzillai was an old man, 80 years old.


Two or possibly three old men, one of them not Jewish, came to the aid of David and his men. They brought much needed supplies to them. Sometimes, we are tempted to make excuses as to why we are not in a position to help or care, but these three men serve as an example of how they served despite their age, or their social status. They may not have been able to become fighters alongside David, but their role of bringing food to David and his men, was as essential as the role of those on the frontline. We should not waste time bemoaning the fact that we can’t help in some “BIG” way, but see what we CAN do and know that our contribution is important too.


Caring, is I think a value in life that demands more of us than the other values we’ve been discussing. If you love someone, caring comes as a natural outflow of that love.


John 13:34 – [Jesus said,] “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


1 Corinthians 12:25b-26 “..., but that its parts [parts of the Body – the Church] should have equal concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.


1 Corinthians 13:3-4 “If I give all I possess to the poor….but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, …”

In other words Caring without love is a waste of time, but love is caring.


Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


James 2 – The whole chapter has relevance, but I highlight just verses 15 to 17: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you say to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith, by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead”


1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift he has received  to serve others, faithfully administering God’s Grace in its various forms.


1 John 4: 19-21 “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must love his brother. (I need to point out that Peter was not speaking merely about blood-relative, but anyone and everyone.)


The quintessential text about caring is the story of the Good Samaritan. We will examine the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the next blog.


Coming Soon, to a computer screen near you!

The Good Samaritan


Tuesday, November 14, 2006




In the last few blog submissions, I have been looking at the values extolled by The Character Counts Foundation, known as the “Six Pillars.”  I pointed out that the six values spell the consonants in the word TeRRiFiCC. I thought that was my clever observation, but on further research, I have noticed that the Character Counts foundation already had that mnemonic on their website, and I realised that it was no co-incidence that they wrote the six values in that particular order. Not only do have the Terrific mnemonic, but they have a colour scheme too. The Colour Scheme for the values already discussed are as follows:




R    E    S    P    E    C    T – GOLD (“The Golden Rule”)


R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y – GREEN  (“Solid and reliable like an oak.”)


F    A    I    R    N    E    S    S ORANGE (“Sharing an orange fairly.”)


The webpage goes defines the six values briefly. Those that I have already discussed, I shall briefly define here as they are defined on the webpage:


TRUSTWORTHINESS: Be honest, don’t deceive, cheat or steal. Be reliable – do what you say you’ll do. Have the courage to do the right thing. Build a good reputation. Be loyal – stand by your family, friends and country.


RESPECT: Treat others with respect. Follow the Golden Rule. Be tolerant of differences. Use good manners, not bad language. Be considerate of the feelings of others. Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone. Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements.


RESPONSIBILITY: Do what you are supposed to do. Persevere: keep on trying! Always do your best. Use self-control. Be self-disciplined. Think before you act – consider the consequences. Be accountable for your choices.


FAIRNESS: Play by the rules. Take turns and share. Be open-minded; listen to others. Don’t take advantage of others. Don’t blame others carelessly.



I’d like to finish off this blog by thanking Mr. Michael Josephson for the marvelous work he is doing through the Character Counts Foundation. His commentaries that I get weekly by e-mail, are really inspiring and thought provoking. Although Mr. Josephson is, as far as I can gather, an observant Jewish man, and I am a Christian, I can honestly say that in terms of values and morality, we both have a lot in common, and I truly admire the fervency with which Mr. Josephson advocates a high moral standards across society.

Monday, October 30, 2006



Visit My Mail Stamp!


Hello friends,


It’s been a while since my last blog, I know, but I have been rather preoccupied with exams lately. I am nearly finished, one left in just over a week.

In the last few blogs I’ve been talking about values – more specifically, the values that make up the 6 pillars of the Character Counts foundation.


Now, the values we’ve examined already are Trustworthiness, Respect and Responsibility. I had said that I would say more about responsibility – perhaps I will, but not this time. Instead I would like to look at the “F” in TeRRiFiCC – for fairness. Now this is a very hard value to write about, in my opinion. On the face of it, it would seem straight forward, treat everybody the same, without discrimination or favour. Apportion everything equally. I would suggest that this is far too simplistic. I do not know if I have a complete handle on this issue of fairness, in fact I don’t think I do, but once again, not being one who has all the answers does not mean that I won’t try. Recently in South Africa they had something called “Heartlines” – 8 values – 8 weeks – join the conversation. That’s what I want – conversation. 


One way to think of fairness is “people get what they deserve or require.” – so, the employee must be paid a living wage, commensurate with his qualification, experience and input. On the other side of the coin, the employer can expect that tasks are done as efficiently as possible. Does fairness mean equality? That is one of the meanings ascribed to it in the dictionary I’ve consulted. If it’s a case of distributing candy / sweeties at a children’s party, it’s easy enough to be fair. When we introduce the concept of division to children at school, we make use of their keen sense of “fairness” when it comes to sharing. The communist vision was that everyone was equal and entitled to equal income and equal assets. They overthrew the aristocracy, who they accused of oppressing the masses. (They did too!) Then they ran the country. However, far from developing a classless society, a new “upper class” arose! The ruling class. Who was it who said: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely?” I think that sometimes, fairness does not imply equality. Sometimes, one person needs a bit more than another to make up for other deficiencies. Most governments pay out “disability grants” to disabled people, to help them cope with the added financial burden of having a disability. For example, a paraplegic person may be able to drive a car, but their car needs to be specially modified, as they cannot use their legs, so they require automatic transmission, and a brake that they can apply with their hand. Such a car will be more expensive than a normal car.  This is only one example of many ways a disabled person needs a bit extra. 


In South Africa, Affirmative Action rules the day. I chuckled when I read on a certain website form “BEE status” and if you clicked on the dropdown list, you were offered Black, Asian, Coloured, White, etc. In other words, they wanted to establish the race of the person filling in the form, but they could not ask straight out. BEE stands for Black Economic Enhancement, I think. Affirmative Action and BEE are described as means to redress injustices of the past. Affirmative action however can only work by discriminating against certain people on the basis of their race. I think it is taking the old apartheid and turning it on its head. Some may believe that Affirmative Action is fair, I don’t.


Another meaning attributed to “fair” in the dictionary is appropriate or acceptable. We have the idiom, “to give someone a fair hearing” meaning to give somebody a chance to give their side of the story before making judgments. This is important. Regardless of the issue at hand, we must always realise that there can be circumstances of which we are unaware, that have at the very least influenced the decisions or actions of another. If we are going to make judgments about other people, let’s be ready to hear the different perspective.  Another idiom is “to give somebody a fair crack of the whip.” This means to give somebody a chance to prove themselves in an activity. I have just written an exam on Assessment in Mathematics. Assessment is about giving the learner the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. This is very different to the perspective on assessment that many of us are used to, where, it was thought that role of tests was to try and trick us into making mistakes. The value of fairness means that if you are having a conversation with somebody else, you do not try to dominate that conversation but allow the others to have a fair crack of the whip and put their perspective across. Fairness means being willing to listen before you speak. In the context of family, it means allowing the youngest member to have his or her say too.


One other aspect of fairness that we need to look at is not so much in the area of receiving, but in the area of giving. No man is an island, entirely self sufficient in every aspect. The communities we live in all require things to be done in order for them to function. Now on a national and even a town village scale these responsibilities are apportioned to people who are paid to carry out these services, but when we come to the home and church or club or workplace, there are contributions that need to be made both in terms of finance and effort to make our the places we live in function. The RESPONSIBILITY that each person bears to contribute will differ according to the person’s age and abilities, but almost everyone (babies and toddlers excepting) can contribute to some degree. Fairness dictates that we each do our fair share. The church I belong to meets in a school hall, that is, of course, used by the school during the week, and by the church on a Sunday morning. This necessitates a weekly set up of all the chairs and equipment for the service and after the service is over, chairs need to be stacked up and put away again, and all the equipment too needs to be put away.  Our church has set-up teams, to which every male member of the church is signed up (as a matter of course.) It amounts to two Sundays in the year that a person has to get up earlier and start setting up, and stay a bit later to make sure that everything is put away. I wish I could say it works like a bomb, but the fact is that there are always those few, who will try and duck out of doing it. It is very frustrating for the team leaders who often have to do their week as well as their own. Even if your church does not have such an arrangement, or is fortunate enough to have its own building so that a weekly set up is not required, there are always things that are needed around the place, and if you notice the need and are in a position to help, why not just do it.


How about our homes. Everybody can make lives easier at home by doing their fair share. Do we always need to be asked to do something before we do it? If we are asked by a parent, a pastor or a teacher, to do something, do we do it cheerfully and to the best of our ability or do we make a lacklustre effort and with a sigh or a groan? Could you confidently say that you would respond in the same way if Jesus, personally, were to ask you to do it? You know what, He is. Now I share this with you, not as if I am better than you in this regard. Probably far from it. We all drag our heals from time to time, but the thing is, is it to the Greater Glory of God? Remember A. D. G. M. (See my blog for October 2005 )


 I have a book on Character Foundation that is aimed at teaching values to children from a Christian perspective. On Fairness, they refer to what is commonly referred to as “The Golden Rule.” Matthew 7:12 – Jesus is speaking the Sermon on the Mount. He said: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” To my mind, these words say all there needs to be said about Fairness. Think about all the implications of acting according to this maxim.


However the F in TeRRiFiCC could also stand for FORGIVENESS and also for  FAITHFULNESS. Hmmm… Maybe it should be TeRRiFFFiCC.

We mustn’t forget FRIENDLINESS.






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Sunday, October 01, 2006


Hello friends,


I am tempted to avoid this one altogether, as to be honest I think I get the lowest marks when it comes to responsibility, one of the six pillars of good character, and the one that is represented by the second R in the mnemonic TeRRiFiCC. We have dealt already with the T – Trustworthiness and the first R – Respect. Now we look at this topic of Responsibility. As I write this, I am going to have to take heed of what the Lord is saying to me through the things that are about to be brought to my mind. I can tell you that at this stage, I am tabula rasa – a blank sheet. So friends, as you read this, you might not have any issues or problems in this area, but spare a thought for those weaker vessels, such as myself. If however, you are like me, join me as I journey on this discovery and by all means, chip in, by emailing me. If you are receiving this by email, simply reply. For those who read my blog, you can write to .


Speaking of replying – The root word for Responsible is response. Response means Answer. So if someone is responsible, it means they can give an answer (or should be able to.) A synonym for responsible is Accountable. Like “respect”, Responsibility is hard to define outside of a context. We all have different levels of accountability in different situations and depending on your level of authority, and your maturity, you have certain amount of responsibility in every context of your life. Let me take for example a home. In that home, there are parents and children. Every home generates expenses such as, rates, utilities, food, clothing, education, etc. It is the responsibility of the breadwinner to ensure that all bills are paid and that expenditure does not exceed income. It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that the home is kept safe for everyone in it. It is the parents’ responsibility to bring up the children so that they in turn can become responsible adults. It is the parents' responsibility to set appropriate boundaries for their children and to ensure that their children are well disciplined law-abiding people.


Last week has not been a good one in the US for violence in schools. First the man in Colorado who went in to Platte Canyon High School and took six hostages, and finally shot a 16 year old girl and then himself, then there is the young 15 year old lad who went into his Wisconsin school and shot the principal. He was arrested and has been charged as an adult for the murder. It has been said that he was upset about a reprimand he had received. Two very tragic events that are symptoms of a society that has  put more emphasis on rights, and not enough stress on RESPONSIBILITY.


Coming back to my example of the home, though parents bear the brunt of responsibility, children for their own good, should be given responsibilities too. Now here is where I walk on eggshells, as I cannot claim to have been exemplary in this regard. A child should be made responsible for keeping his room and belongings tidy and clean........ Hold on, while I go and make my bed!...... Well, now I can continue. Growing up, I was what my family and teachers would affectionately refer to as a loskop. I often mislaid personal belongings and drove my poor parents to distraction with the things I lost at school.  


What can I say?           SORRY, MUM & DAD !!!


So as one who has had to learn the hard way (and is still learning), take it from me, the earlier children learn responsibility, the better.


As I mentioned a bit earlier, children should learn to take responsibility. One area that should help children learn responsibility is HOMEWORK. I know, kids, that’s a dirty word – Homework.  All jokes aside, homework is a useful tool to help children develop a sense of responsibility. I read a newspaper article somewhere earlier this year, where the author was advocating that homework should be done away with. He justified his opinion with many arguments. However on reflection, I can honestly say I disagree. I'm sorry, I cannot recall the bibliographical details of the article – it was about 4 months ago that I saw it. If my memory serves me correctly one of his points was that when adults go to work they are not given homework, and it is irresponsible to bring the office home. I don’t know if that is always the case. Some types of work are impossible to do away from the workplace, but my guess is that many executives do not switch off when they leave the office and not think about anything work related until they return to the office. On the contrary, they are continually thinking about different issues that are worrying them. A medical doctor faced with a patient for whom he is struggling to reach a diagnosis will spend many hours researching and trying to identify the problem.. Engineers and architects will have various projects on their mind. Lawyers will be mulling over the cases that they are handling. I’m sure the same can be said of judges. For teachers, there is lesson preparation and marking that needs to be done, and there are simply not enough “working hours” to complete the tasks, given time constraints and deadlines. So the reality is that most people who enter the working environment will find that they DO have a certain amount of homework to do, even if it is self-imposed, so school homework DOES prepare learners for their adult working lives. The other thing I remember about that article was that the writer alleged that HOMEWORK interfered with family time. Well, I think that is a load of hooey! Firstly, responsible teachers give much thought to how they set homework and will not set an unreasonable amount that will burden the child. If your experience is different, I think you are well within your rights to take this matter up with the child’s teacher. Children are given homework assignments to develop their own understanding of the subject. Parents can, by all means, offer assistance and direction, but parents who do the work for their children ARE NOT BEING RESPONSIBLE, and their children only learn a way of avoiding responsibility. 


So how does homework help develop responsibility? Speaking now with the South African context in mind, a teacher will set a homework assignment and state clearly by when this task needs to be completed. The child should immediately write down the assignment in their homework notebooks. It is THEIR responsibility to take home from school the necessary textbooks or materials that they will need to do the task. They will also have to decide (though parents often make this decision for children), when they will work on the task so as to complete it in time.  Finally they will have to take it and submit it on time. When we think of the various excuses that emanate from learners that have not done their homework – and yes I used them too – it is clear that they are not taking responsibility for their homework. “I forgot about it.” – to which the teacher will probably ask why he or she had not written it in his or her homework book.. I heard recently that teachers are no longer allowed to detain pupils during break times to have them complete homework assignments not done when they should have been done. The mind boggles. Here is a perfect opportunity for a child to learn consequences for actions. DO HOMEWORK = have fun at break time. DON’T DO HOMEWORK = no fun at break time.


In the same way, small children should be held accountable for their small responsibilities, so that they learn while they are still young that irresponsibility leads to unpleasant consequences. 


Michael Josephson, the founder and director of Character Counts, in a recent commentary entitled Kids Today, wrote:

True, I can't always control what my kids do, but there'll be no ambiguity about my beliefs and expectations regarding behavior that bears on their character and long-term well-being. My kids will have no doubt that oral sex is really sex and that casual, no-strings-attached sex under the euphemisms "friendship with benefits," "bed buddies" or "hooking up" are unwise and wrong.

You may draw your lines at different places, but every parent must draw them and hold them. Our kids need and deserve guidance and boundaries.

If anyone would like to read Michael’s commentaries online or sign up to receive a weekly email, as I do, go to

We have a responsibility also to the environment. We can all think of ways in which we can either help or hurt the environment. We drastically need to address these matters.

We have a responsibility towards society. Some of these responsibilities are enforced by legislation, but others are a matters for our own consciences. Selfish individuals may think that they are getting away with it, but at the end of the day they will pay - in one way or another.

This morning at church, we did an unusual thing (in the context of church, that is) We had breakfast together. People brought food from home, put it on a central table. We had a time of worship and praise and we broke bread (had communion) and then we enjoyed a meal together sharing what we had, in the spirit of Acts 2:42. The man who led the "Breaking of Bread" brought very interesting scripture and illustration. He displayed the various ingredients to make brownies. He spoke about each one in turn emphasizing that alone they don’t taste so good (except Sugar, but that has other down-sides, like dental cavities, obesity, etc.) He said that some people are like a mouthful of dry flour. Others, like vanilla essence, can only taken in small doses; but when you put them together, subject them together to great heat, what emerges are wonderful tasty brownies. In the same way, God takes men, women and children, all very different, and mixes them together He then brings out this body of people who with God’s guidance, help us along. Somebody said to me, when you are in the body, and you allow the body to help you, you can overcome many different difficulties.

Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to forsake the gathering together of the brothers. Psalm 133:1 Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. In Gen 4, God asked Cain where Abel was (not that God did not know!) and Cain’s now infamous reply was “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In more modern terminology Cain was implying that he had no responsibility for his brother and did not care about where he was. In fact, Cain knew exactly what had become of Abel – He had killed him out of jealousy.  Back to the theme of responsibility – the message I get from the Bible is that we have a responsibility towards one another.

Love Your neighbour! When we read 1 Corinthians 13 we can see what that love means in practice. Gal 6:2 – bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. This is a responsibility. 

Jesus said, "My children, I will be with you only a short time more. You will look for me. And what I told the Jewish leaders, I tell you now: Where I am going you cannot come. "I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other like I loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other." John 13:33-35. 

How would anyone know that you love one another, unless it is a demonstrated love.

I am approaching 2000 words with this blog and so must stop, but I would like to address one more aspect of RESPONSIBILITY, namely, people’s tendency to shift responsibility onto someone else.....but that will have to be something for another day.

Once again – I’m sure you’ve got thoughts about this whole issue, and I invite, no, encourage you, to write to me about it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece called “That’s TeRRiFiC” and I told you that it stood for 6 ethics: Namely Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness and Compassion/Caring & Citizenship. These were not my idea – though the word “TeRRiFiCC” was – they come from a website called Character Counts. Last time I dwelt on the ethic of Trustworthiness – This time I hope to write about RESPECT.

What is Respect? From a young age, we are taught to respect our parents and grandparents, and also our teachers and authority in general. But how does a child respect his parents? Does respect imply unquestioning and immediate obedience? Does respect imply that one cannot criticise the actions of someone you respect? Does a lack of respect imply rebellion?

I have looked at a number of websites to get a better idea of what is respect. Did you know that The British Governement has a website devoted entirely to this subject. On their home page the statement appears: “Respect cannot be learned, purchased or acquired – it can only be earned.” I would only add that respect may be demanded but where it is demanded it unlikely to be supplied.

Parents want their children to respect them. They then look for signs of that respect, such as obedience and politeness. These things may indicate respect or, they may merely indicate fear. A more telling indicator of respect for a parent is the extent to which a child will confide in them. You see, politeness and obedience may be done out of fear of the consequences of not being polite and not obeying. But a person will never open up and confide in a person for whom they have no respect. I am sure many a professional counsellor or psychologist would endorse what I have just said.

I think there are two essential ingredients to gaining the respect of others:

1. You respect yourself.

2. You respect others.

A basic component of respect is acceptance. Acceptance of another person that although he or she is different from yourself you accept them the way they are. Thus if we are to respect ourselves, we need to accept ourselves. A lot has been said in recent years about something called “self-esteem.” When you do a self-evaluation how do you see yourself? Do you focus on your achievements? Do you think about your relationships? Perhaps you look back over all the mistakes you’ve made in life. Do you look at the different roles you have in life, parent, child, student, worker, employer, etc.? Maybe you reflect on your bank balance or your assets, as they are how you quantify your worth? These things can lead to discontent and a very poor self-image. As a Christian, I look to the Bible for affirmations of my value. Since the Bible is God’s word and the Bible contains many affirmations of who I am in Jesus Christ, I can be sure that these statements are true about me:

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.

John 15:1, 5 I am the true vine and my father is the husbandman… I am the true vine, ye are the branches. He that abides in me and I in him , the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.

Using these affirmations and many others in the Word of God, I can say God loves me, and so I can love me. This must not be confused with conceit or vanity. By reading the Bible, I realise that God has a job for me to do. (Eph. 2:8-10) As such my input is valued and valuable. If I know that I can respect myself. In that lies my respect for the value of others. If a person is struggling with a low self-esteem, it is highly likely that they will not esteem others either.

We need to help children develop healthy self-esteems. Children will learn self-respect when they see that we respect them. The best teacher of respect is to model respect.

When your eight year old is talking to you, do you really listen? How does the child know that you are listening?

If a child is in his or her room and the door is shut, do you knock before entering?

Do you talk about your child to other adults in their hearing? Is such talk positive?

Do you thank your child when he or she does something in an effort to please you, even if the result might not have turned out quite as they or you would have liked?

When a reprimand is called for, how is it delivered? Have you allowed your child the chance to defend himself?

When you have wronged your child, have you apologised?

Does your speech affirm your child? Is there anything that you say to the child which when said to another person would be regarded as demeaning, an insult, ridicule? (You may be tempted to rationalize that you did not mean it in that way. The thing is, it’s not the intended meaning but how it is understood that is important.)

If your child senses that you respect her or him, she or he will naturally learn what it is to respect and she or he will show that respect in many ways. When it is necessary to point out a lack of respect, children will be more receptive if they themselves have been respected.

You also need to model respect to your children by being respectful of all people, especially spouses, your parents and parents-in-law, the child’s school teacher, authority figures such as traffic police, one’s own employer and political leaders. (No-one said it was easy!)

I am referring a great deal to parents, but the responsibility of modelling respect is not only theirs but everyone who comes into contact with children and who can influence children. I say that, because I am not a parent. However I am a teacher and I need to respect my students, so that they will also respect their teachers and one another.

I pointed out that obedience and politeness can be shown to a person you don’t necessarily respect, but it is true to say, that if you respect somebody you will be willing to be obedient and polite towards them. Respect and Trust are very closely related. As I mentioned before, somebody would not confide in a person they don’t respect. For that matter, the person will not confide in a person they do not trust.

So, in summary, Respect engenders acceptance, obedience, politeness, and trust. The same might be said of love. 1 Corinthians 13 talks about what love is. Love surpasses respect in the sense that it is possible to love people who you do not respect (that takes a special kind of love.) it is very difficult not to love people you do respect.

Respect engenders acceptance. You show respect to your neighbour by accepting that they are different to yourself. We should be able to accept people of different racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. This means we don’t make racial jokes. We don’t ridicule another’s religion or make fun of aspects of their culture.

As pointed out on the Child and Youth Health web site: If people are behaving badly towards you and hurting you or your feelings, then you cannot, and must not, respect their unkind behaviour. Bullying and harassment should never be tolerated. (

Respect engenders obedience: If you respect authority, you will obey, provided the demand is reasonable. If we respect a person, we will try and do what they ask us to do, again if the request is reasonable. If for some reason we cannot do something that we are requested to do, we will explain to the person why we can’t do it, rather than simply ignore the request.

Respect engenders politeness. Common courtesies go a long way to building relationships. Courtesy is a very wide-ranging subject and difficult to encapsulate everything. I need to state here that even if for whatever reason, you do not respect an individual you ought to still be polite and deal with your differences in a “respectable manner.”

I finish off with a quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of being Earnest:

“Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out.”