These days, I’m really trying to keep track of the things that tempt me. Unless I know what kinds of things tend to creep toward the recesses of my heart, how can I keep them out? And so, I’ve been monitoring my thoughts about certain people, identifying things that irritate me and cause me to say unkind things, and tracking my time/hobbies. It’s a very beneficial spiritual inventory, and I’m at least identifying a lot of areas to work on (and hopefully improving little by little!). Yesterday, though, I was tempted by something I wouldn’t consider normal for me: I was tempted to steal.
Maybe stealing is your “thing.” Maybe you struggle with it a lot. But honestly, I just don’t. If you had asked me last week, “Hey Emily – do you think you are tempted to steal things?” I would have said absolutely not! Tempted to think mean-spirited things? Yes. Tempted by a host of other things? Yes. Stealing? Not so much. But yesterday, I came face to face with the reality that actually, I am tempted by it.
It happened at Wal-Mart. I had finished my grocery shopping and took the cart out to my car, unloaded my items, and went to push my cart into the return, and that’s when I saw it: a bag that someone had left in their cart when they took it to the return. There was no one around me. I had no clue how long the bag had been there, but I knew that I was very intrigued by a bag that had brand new things in it that apparently were free for the taking!
But – I stopped and caught myself. “Emily, someone paid for that.” Someone who wasn’t me. Someone who might return to Wal-Mart upon their realization that they left their bag. Someone who might blame the cashier. Someone who needed whatever items they purchased.
So I thought about just leaving it. Then I thought, no, it’s good that I saw it. The next person might steal it. They might see an unclaimed bag and then what? The guilt of sin would be on them. I didn’t want to leave a stumbling block for the next person, so I grabbed the bag, marched back into Wal-Mart, and handed it to a customer service representative. Hopefully the person who bought it comes back and gets it.
Whew! Wal-Mart never makes me think so much!
As I was driving home, I kept reflecting on the situation. I was glad I had turned it in. It was the right thing to do. Sure, it inconvenienced me, but it was worth it, because doing the right thing always is. Unfortunately, that’s not always how we view sin, is it?
Sometimes, we like to justify sin. Who will it hurt? If it’s a secret sin – think pornography or bitterness or withholding forgiveness or hypocrisy – no one else knows! Who will it hurt!? It’s like the bag that was just left out in the open with no one around– who will it hurt if I take this? But then the same thought comes back to me – someone paid for it. Someone paid for the contents of that bag, and someone paid for our ‘secret’ sins: Jesus. He went to the cross for the sins we think no one else sees. He paid for them. Purchased them with His own blood. No sin is worth that price. And because we didn’t have to pay for it – because Jesus’ blood cleanses us when we stumble – we must stay as far away from the sin as we possibly can.
Yes, it might be inconvenient. Staying away from things I’m drawn to is rarely fun, and sometimes because of past choices, it is extremely difficult. We may have to go completely out of our way to keep from sinning. It may take lots of effort. But difficulty and inconvenience didn’t keep Jesus from the cross, so we shouldn’t use them as excuses to give in to the things that sent Him there in the first place.
I’m ashamed that I am drawn to things that sent Jesus to that horrible cross, but I am thankful that He gives me strength to overcome, strength to walk away, and strength to say no to Satan. I am thankful for His sacrifice of leaving heaven, only to come to an earth He created, filled with people He created who would abuse Him and mock Him and murder Him. I am thankful He chose to take on all of those horrible things so that I wouldn’t have to pay for my sins. I am thankful He forgives and pleads my case before God when I am frail and imperfect. I am thankful that I can live my life close to Him, leaning on Him, praising Him daily for all that He did and continues to do for me.
Whatever it is in your life that causes you to stumble or almost stumble – walk away. Choose our beautiful, selfless, awesome Jesus! He went to the cross for you! He took sin upon His sinless Self for you! Nothing this life can offer you is worth giving up Jesus; giving up heaven. Nothing.
And definitely not anything that comes in a Wal-Mart sack.