By the time I was a senior in high school, I had gotten really good at knowing when the coaches were watching. We worked on a the field a lot. A LOT. I figured out how to carry around a rake, then start raking just as the closest set of coaching eyes fell on me. Thankfully, I took working at baseball a little more seriously than working on the field, but the point remains: I got really good at doing what I was supposed to when people were watching, and not so good at the field work when I knew no eyes were fixed my way.
In doing so, I sadly went against the wisdom of Scripture.
Proverbs 7:19-20 says this: “For the man is not at home, he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, at full moon he will come home.”
In context, these verses are in a story about a young man who, lacking good sense, ventures into the house of a “wayward woman,” sleeps with her, and eventually pays the price for his foolishness.
If you look at these verses, spoken by the woman in the story, you’ll notice she’s telling him the lie we all believe from time to time: no one will know. And, if no one knows, it’s not a big deal. If it’s not a big deal, you’re entitled to it. If you’re entitled to it, have at it.
What would you do if you knew you could get away with it?
Two things, if we’re honest.
First, as much as possible. Sin always wants more of whatever is offered. More power. More money. More respect. More pleasure. More attention. More whatever. And, human nature, if it knows no one is watching, always wants more.
Second, as little as possible. It’s me with the rake. If no one is watching, we often do as little as possible. Just enough to get by. Just enough so we don’t have to lie and say we did nothing.
The most foolish part–the saddest part, really–is that, when tempted, we are sometimes delusional enough to believe no one is actually watching, that no one will actually know, that it won’t affect anyone but us.
Even something as simple as that rake, while it might have slipped the notice of a coach or two, probably wasn’t lost on the underclassmen around me. And, it certainly wasn’t out of the sight of my Lord, whom I followed then, as now.
Here’s what I’ve come to learn through a few years of walking with Jesus. God isn’t up there in heaven looking down on us, waiting for us to think no one is watching while we sin, and then BOOM! Sin is a huge deal to him, even the sins we commit that we think no one knows about. It’s such a big deal that Jesus left heaven, lived without sin (so that someone could be perfect on our behalf), then died in our place (God is so holy that he had to punish sin), and then rose again to prove that he has unlimited power, even over death, even over sin.
I’ve learned that the more I understand the love and grace of Jesus, the less I’m worried about what I can get away with and the more I want to let him live his incredible life through me. So, this isn’t about cleaning up your act. This isn’t about, “Stop doing those things because GOD IS WATCHING.” None of that will keep you from sin. Only as you and I lean into the love of Jesus will our desire to sin diminish. Only as we know him on a deeper level will sin become foreign and disgusting.
So, the message here has nothing to do with a threat from God. It’s about what will win you over: his love and kindness to you. Look at the cross of Christ today and be wowed by it for the first time again.
Lord Jesus, I’m so tired of doing as much as I want or as little as possible, just because I can get away with it. I need and want more in my life. Let your love and grace wash over me. Thank you for loving me, right in the middle of my sin. Amen.