By Gerald Cowan
I heard a humorous story – a true one –
about the adjustment that takes place in the life of a
retired person. It seems that, after a life filled with
responsibilities and demands an older man had finally
reached retirement. He soon realized he had too much time on
his hands, so he looked for a way to keep himself busy
by helping someone else.
The first place he started helping was in
his wife’s kitchen – probably not the best choice he could
have made. To his way of thinking things were not well
organized in the kitchen. So he set out to organize it for
her. When his wife found out about it she complained and set
about reorganizing the kitchen, back to the way she had it
and wanted it. A few days later he was at it again, and this
time he did an even more thorough job than before – he
re-reorganized the kitchen. When his wife saw it she devised
a way to stop all such efforts on his part. While he was
gone she slipped out to his work area in the garage, where
he spent a lot of time fiddling with stuff. She
organized the area and the stuff to fit her standards.
Of course he didn’t like it! But he never again tried to
reorganize things for his wife.
The story reminds me of how much we all
dislike having people interfere in our lives. Nothing will
put us on the defensive faster than for someone to start
making decisions for us. Children reach a point where they
are able to make decisions and choices and can be held
responsible for them. All of us accountable people are
responsible for ourselves. That is what accountable means:
able to decide and choose and answer for one’s own attitudes
and actions (John 9:21).
We often try doing to others what the man
in the story did to his wife. We want to reorganize the
lives of others and make sure they recognize their failures.
We explain to them what they should and should not be doing.
We want to make choices for them in almost every aspect of
their lives: family, school, work, society, recreation – and
especially in the church. And pretty soon, if they don’t
conform to what we think is necessary, we start trying to do
it for them. We do this especially with children. It will
not work! And it doesn’t take long before they let their
Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying we
have no responsibility to point out to others, especially
brothers and sisters in the church, what God’s expectations
are for them and for all of us. As Christians we have
responsibility – God expects us to do it (Gal. 6:1-2). But
when it comes to doing or not doing, complying with God’s
will or not, and fulfilling one’s personal responsibility,
each one of us has to do it for himself. You can’t do it for
anyone else, and nobody else can do it for you. Each one
bears responsibility for himself (Gal. 6:5).
Maybe the old gentleman’s problem was
that he was retired from his own life and was trying to live
somebody else’s life. He was no longer busy about the things
of his own life, so he had to find someone else to work on.
Actually, if one has eyes to see it, he can work on himself
as long as he lives. He can always find room for growth and
development, and improvement too.
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola Church of Christ in
Dongola, IL. He may be contacted at