My dad has been a pastor for 41 years and has been serving at his current church for 25 years. Recently, I have been jotting down some of his phrases. Though this statement is one of the funny ones, it’s part of his tone as a pastor – to interject timely humor into leadership situations.
There’s nothing like leaving a staff meeting where the schedule is overwhelming, decisions are tough and everyone has more than a full plate and hear, “Well, every man for himself.” It always breaks the ice. People laugh. It’s hilarious really. If he should ever teach at a seminary or university upon retirement, I can see this being his end to class – it’s that kind of ‘old professor’ humor. Try it after the next meeting you’re leading. I’m sure people will smile.
Though he never uses this in any kind of serious situation, there are some more serious implications for this phrase. The phrase literally means that in a difficult situation, every person begins to fend for and look after only themselves. Most of life is lived supporting and caring for others (and being supported and cared for). But, there are some things that each person can only be responsible for. Much like exercise, the only way it will help you is if you do it yourself. Here are 5 simple reflections that could apply to this statement.
1) Each person is responsible for his own words. (Matthew 12:37)
2) Each person is responsible for making the most of her own schedule and time. (Colossians 4:5)
3) Each person is responsible for his use of the gifts God has given them. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
4) Each person is responsible her own attitude. (Romans 15:4-6)
5) Each person is responsible for his own soul. (Matthew 16:25-27)
In these five ways, it’s every man for himself.
Obviously, we are in community. We live in the context of those around us. And there are people to help us as we walk this road of faith. But there are some things in life that require us to do them if they are going to happen at all. Some things cannot be done by anyone else. It’s important to remember. In these matters, take charge now. Do it.