Duty |’d(y)oōtē| – 1. A moral or legal obligation; a responsibility. 2. a task or action someone is required to perform. 3. A payment due and enforced by law or custom. – taken from Oxford American Dictionary
Last week I introduced a discussion on values. It seems to me that while the culture focuses on what’s uncertain in our economic and political world, we as family leaders (both fathers and mothers) should be focusing on what remains certain. I believe every family, especially every father, should have some written or understood set of values that they can articulate and share with their circle of influence – to understand the principles that motivate you to be who you are, or better, who you want to be.
The first of my core values is Duty. Now, duty may seem like a cold, unflinching type of topic to begin with. When many think of duty, images of servitude and drudgery come to mind. We may see duty as nothing more than a list of to-dos, or a code of military or patriotic service, or even as an archaic reference to the biblical phrase in marriage vows (which you almost never hear any more). I remember memorizing the Boy Scout Oath, which includes the words “to do my duty to God and my country”. But almost never is duty mentioned in a positive way. So much is made of the freedom of the individual, of the choice of people to determine their own responsibilities, that the idea of duty is usually referred to when an outside force requires it of us – and usually we are trying to avoid it. Rarely is duty mentioned as a self-motivated character trait.
When I included duty in my list of core values, I wrote out this defining statement.
When given a task, or even knowing a task should be done, I will do it as unto the Lord. I will show diligence and respect to my superiors and my colleagues.
To me, duty is the glue that holds my purpose together. I don’t serve others because I have some special instinct to do so. I do what I do out of a sense of gratitude to the One that gave me the blessing to live on this earth and to carry out my life in the place He put me. My duty to Him necessitates that I FREELY choose to accept the accompanying duties to protect my family, to work diligently in my career, and to step up to meet responsibilities whether or not I am the instigator of the problem or beneficiary of the solution.
My understanding of my duty as a father began long before my children showed up, because as a child my dad taught me that my foremost earthly duty is to provide for my family. He never complained about the amount of work building a business took, or about the late nights he spent. I learned from that experience that if the benefits of work are positive, then the obligations of work are also positive. Meanwhile, my mother helped me understand that fulfilling your duty is an act of love. One day as a teen, while washing dishes a second time to make sure they were clean, my mom whispered something in my ear I have never forgotten.
“You’re gonna make a good husband one day.”
I internalized what that meant. Being faithful with the most menial tasks can mean just as much – or more- as buying the most expensive gift or making a huge one – time sacrifice. In fulfilling my duty, I demonstrate self – sacrifice, the highest of all possible values, because it means I put my service to another cause equal to or higher than my own causes. In fact, I make other’s purposes and causes my own. Perhaps that is why Jesus told us not to take credit when people compliment our earthly service in the Kingdom.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. Luke 17:10 (KJV)
I don’t look for the reward in doing my duty to my wife, family, employer, country, or church. It is its own reward. To be aligned with the right cause is to be right. To be doing the right thing at the right time is something no one can question or malign. To do my duty means I am actively engaged in doing what I was created to do, and in that I’m not worthy of any special recognition – yet the sense of satisfaction is worth far more than any earthly award or pat on the back.
In fact, having a duty means you have been entrusted with a task that you are uniquely qualified to fulfill. Like the parable of the talents, we are given tools to work with, not toys to play with, or treasure to bury. To use the tools of our service in constant allegiance to a higher purpose is to truly live our lives as they were meant to be lived. Even Adam was given a responsibility(to tend the garden of Eden), and he was in a perfect world. Why not, then, resurrect duty as a sacred and high honor? If God felt it would benefit a perfect place, how much more would it benefit a world full of selfishness and greed? How much more gracious and respectful would our children be if we stopped telling them what they can get for doing the right thing, and focus on just doing the right thing? If more people would come back to duty as a value, rather than the “what’s in it for me” attitude, I believe we would have a better society without a single law or new government program. People would remember that life is a gift, and the thank-you-note is our service.
I’ll let guest blogger Solomon close. He’s much more qualified to answer the final question – the question of our ultimate duty.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Eccl. 12:13 (KJV)
Looking unto the hills,