For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:14-16
Years ago, there was a popular song that spoke of how it “rains pennies from heaven.” Although I have never been soaked by such a financial shower, an ATM in Louisiana came pretty close to doing exactly that for its patrons. The Associated Press reported how one particular ATM machine gave out twenty-dollar bills every time it was supposed to be only five-dollar-bills. For five days, the machine substituted $20 for $5. During that time, twenty-six people made out like bandits, literally. When a supervisor unplugged the bountiful machine, some treasure seeker plugged it back in.
Reading that story, I wonder what I would have done had I been there. Would I, as a Christian, have returned the money? Would I have told about the others who were taking advantage of a faulty piece of equipment? Does the question get more complicated if I know that nobody is watching or if I think “everyone is doing it?” When Paul wrote to the church in Rome he said everybody, including people who aren’t Christians, have the law of the Lord written in their hearts.
Paul was saying the Lord has given everyone, both believers and unbelievers, a conscience that is designed to tell them right from wrong. A healthy conscience says, “God is watching and He isn’t going to be pleased with wrongdoing.” Unfortunately, at least for twenty-six folks at a Louisiana truck stop, some consciences are “on the fritz”, and they apparently don’t care all that much what God thinks.
Of course, we who have been saved by Jesus have a reason, other than fear, to do the right thing. We aren’t terrified that God is going to strike us down with a lightning bolt if we misbehave. As Christians, we have another level of reinforcement, a better motivation to do the right thing. We don’t take the wrong amount from an ATM because it is pleasing to the Lord and because we want others to know our faith in the Savior has made a difference in our lives. We do what is right even when no other human being is watching.
(PS – Having said all that, I want you to know that God wasn’t the only one who was watching the folks at the Eagle’s Truck Stop in Louisiana. The ATM was also watching, and it kept track of all the folks who got what they didn’t deserve. The Sheriff’s office says they may all be prosecuted.)
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us do what is right because it is what Jesus would want us to do. Help us to do the right thing when people are watching as well as when we think we’re alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.