So it is sin to know to do good and yet not do it.” James 4:17
I said the “S” word. Oh, no—not that one. You see we have some pretty strict standards with language in our house. My wife, Judy, taught our children, and me, that there are certain words we just don’t say. One is “shut-up.” That is just too rude. I remember a couple of years back when she was teaching ReFit. She was using a pop song called, “Shut-up and Dance with Me.” Oh my—I had a fit. I tried to explain to her how that was against our standards. She gently, well, somewhat gently, explained to me that it was a love song and the words were spoken in that context. “Oh.” I said, I was always kind of cut and dried.
But that is not the word that came out of my mouth the other day. It was the other “S” word that is banned from our family. So, I had just finished my morning walk. I went 3.6 miles at an average pace of 13.20 minutes per mile. Most folks would tell you for walking that is a pretty fast pace. I got back to the house and I was drenched with sweat…hot and tired. But there was this kinda feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And then I got to thinking.
You see five or six times a week I do this exercise thing and it is good thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It’s the kinda thing that you tell your doctor you are doing and they pat you on the head and say how well you are doing. I even have a healthy breakfast—lots of protein and very little carbs or fat. I feel another pat on the head coming on. And then it happens. Someone brings donuts to the office and those sweet round things whisper my name. Sometimes it is cookies and they whisper a little louder. Through the day the whispers get louder and louder and by the time evening coming I am eating anything and everything with sugar in it. And that’s when I said it.
Sitting outside, drenched in sweat, proud of exercising, I said it, “Dewayne, you’re stupid (that’s the other “S” word). You work so hard to exercise and then turn around and make a series of unwise and unhealthy decisions. And it occurs to me that those bad decisions totally negate the good ones of the morning. In other words, I am shooting myself in the foot. At best I am breaking even for the day. I think I am learning the good doesn’t outweigh (no pun intended) the bad. I need to cut back, perhaps way back, on the sweet stuff to really gain the benefit of the exercise.
We do the exact same thing with our spiritual disciplines. Do we understand that even if we get up in the morning and have a time with God—even if we read His Word, read a couple of devotional thoughts and even pray, the unwise decisions we make during the rest of the day rob us of our victory? We need to learn to do the good and at the same time stop the bad. We need to carefully weigh each decision we make. Often, I visit our pantry and will find myself trying different things just to satisfy that itch I have. In the process I consume a bunch of empty, non-satisfying calories. I end the day wondering why and how that happened. I then start the next day with a commitment to do better.
I think the secret must be to constantly remember through the day the cost of making unwise decisions—whether they be calories or sins. And then in the case of the pantry, turn out the light and walk out—empty handed. It may be difficult at that moment but the win is about two minutes later when you realize you made a right decision. And that’s another secret—make one wise decision and then wait to make the next one. Before long—you wait—and things will begin to change.
There’s a verse tucked away in the Book that James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the Bible. It says that when we know to do good and then choose not to do it—well, that becomes a sin. And if we see it though that lens it starts to make sense. Now most of my nighttime grazing for sweets occurs when Judy isn’t around. It’s just easier to make unwise choices when the one who loves me most isn’t there. The idea is to stay out of the kitchen when she isn’t around.
It’s the same with our Dearest Father. If we can get it into our heads that He is always there to help us make wise choices—well, we will make wiser choices. He wants us to sin less because when we do—we bring glory to His name and we are happier. So, the next time you’re tempted to make a bad or unwise decision, look around and He will be there for you. Just turn out the light and walk out empty-handed. Just put your hand in His. Just lay it to rest. He’s got this.