When No One’s Watching

Our family had such a thing for M&Ms when our sons were growing up that I was constantly purchasing the huge multi-pound bag from Sam’s Warehouse. The boys were well aware that after they were in bed, their father would help himself liberally. So, when they went to the cabinet and found an empty, or near-empty bag, they would immediately yell, “Dad ate all the M&Ms!!” Part of Dad’s thinking was M&Ms eaten in secret did not contain the same number of calories as those eaten at the family dinner table. But what no one knew was that Dad had help with the disappearing M&Ms. My secret time was while the boys were at school. Because Dad’s “sneaking” was widely known, it was very easy for me to let him take the fall.

Most of us are extraordinarily good at rationalizing our behavior and absolving ourselves of blame. If I yell at my husband/children in the privacy of our home, rather than in public, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – they needed to be set straight, and I spared them embarrassment. If I tell the movie ticket agent that my 12-13 year old son who has not experienced a growth spurt should receive the child’s ticket, what difference does that really make? If I purchase an expensive dress for a special occasion, then return it after the event for a full refund because it’s the wrong color, isn’t that being frugal with my money? It’s not like I’m cheating on my taxes (employing a CPA adept at finding loopholes is perfectly legal). Unfortunately, our society has grown increasingly permissive toward whatever we can get away with, and many of us Christians have been swept into that stream.

How many of us take the same approach to God? Have we forgotten He said, “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from Me, nor is their sin concealed from My eyes”? (Jer 16:17) If the Holy Spirit indwells us through our faith in Jesus, He actually has a front-row seat to everything we do, say, and think. But do we require more, like the accountability of being in the constant physical, literal Presence of Jesus, to remind us to do what is right?

If we profess to know Jesus, then we must pay attention to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, “live lives worthy of God, Who calls you into His kingdom and glory.” (3:12) In the days of Moses, the Lord said to the Israelites, “Be holy, because I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:16; Lev 11:44,45; 19:2) So, throughout time, God has demonstrated it is not about doing right because we believe we are good people (or we want others to think so), but doing right because we are a reflection of the Lord. While the very idea of obedience carries an implication of compulsion and/or duty, the desire of God’s heart is that our behavior would be motivated by our love and relationship with Him. In other words, we do what is right and pleasing to God because we WANT to. Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” (John 14:15)

Because we love our children and/or spouses, we naturally desire what is beneficial and good for them. And we covet demonstrations of their love in return. But what about the Person Who loved us so much as to die in our place without expecting anything in return? Do we love Jesus enough to simply desire the things He desires? What story do our hidden actions and motivations tell?