By Dan Hamilton
The origins of old sayings are often interesting. If several online sources are correct, the phrase “pass the buck” began with poker games about 150 years ago. Cheating was common in those games. Players made sure that no one person was allowed to be the dealer out of turn, so a knife with a buckhorn handle was often used to indicate the next dealer. After the deal it was time to “pass the buck.” (It’s even possible that in later years a silver dollar was used and so the common term “buck” is still used for a dollar.)
Not to Blame
Today the phrase “passing the buck” refers to passing blame to others. If it were a game, most of us would be quite good at it. We don’t have to look far to find someone who is responsible for our shortcomings, our bad calls, and our sins. It seems to lessen our personal guilt—at least temporarily. In the workplace, at home, and in all of our relationships, we don’t accept responsibility for our actions. Once we master the art, we begin feeling pretty good about our lives. We don’t accept the blame for any of our sinful actions. Someone else is guilty.
Of course, after a while our conscience becomes dull. Not only does passing the buck hurt our relationships with others, but it also pulls us away from God. Ezekiel 18 makes it plain that the guilty soul will receive deserved punishment. Although we might feel pain initially, it is actually beneficial to feel remorseful after our wrongdoings. Our godly sorrow leads to repentance. The Lord continues to be pleased when we turn from our guilty ways to him.
One side of a famous plaque that occasionally sat on former President Harry S. Truman’s desk read, “The Buck Stops Here.” Many decisions of national importance were made in the Oval Office during his presidency. This leader made an honest attempt to accept the responsibility given him.
Let’s accept our own responsibility and turn to God.
Dan and his wife, Karen, have two adult children and four fantastic grandchildren. They have ministered with the Croton Church of Christ near Columbus, Ohio, for over 30 years.