Behave yourself

What’s better than getting up at 4 am on Black Friday to fight the crowds and strategically rifle through a well-thought out plan of attack documented only by a string of newspaper ads marked in Sharpie and ordered by store opening times?

Almost anything.

Anything is better than that.

Still, that was today for my bride and I as the kiddos slept in at Grandmas. We spent a small fortune (as opposed to the large fortune it could have been) and got about 90% of what we hunted.

We dominated Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target Mart and Home Depot Mart and even squeezed in a romantic breakfast for two at IHOP Mart.

While we were wolfing down some pancakes (actually, I was wolfing… Kathy never wolfs… she delicately cuts, slowly eats and cutely chews… she never wolfs) we were discussing how crazy some people were.

Every year we see stories on the news about how two soccer moms nearly clubbed each other to death with a Christmas ham and an extra value pack of jumbo wrapping paper at a discount store over some Tickle Me Elmo.

Oh, pardon me. This year it’s a robot hamster. My bad.

So over breakfast we recounted tales of inappropriate human behavior.

I shared how the wicked witch of Wal-Mart put a hex on me for not having an ESP-like knowledge of her desire to purchase a card table and chairs. “There are only twelve of these and 16 of us have been waiting longer than you!”

And a happy 4:45 am to you too, my dear.

I wanted to respond, “Yeah, but I’m bigger than you, so, if you don’t want a broken nose, I’d head over to Target before I get done here and move over there to take more stuff away from you.”

Instead, I opted for, “Oh, I’m sorry.” (You can envision me meekly pushing my cart away, just like the Apostle Peter would have if he were hitting Black Friday… aren’t you proud?)

I crammed some pancake in my mouth, with sugar free syrup cause that makes it all better, and let Kathy recount what happened on her end of the store.

With those “you’re never going to believe this” eyes, she started in: “I was lined up to get this oversized doll for your niece right next to this woman, and just before 5 when they released us, her husband started coaching her. He was saying, ‘Elbows, baby. Use your elbows.’”

Now, I have to tell you.

You really shouldn’t mess with Kathy. One of her favorite expressions for talking about difficult people is, “Oh, they better be glad I’m not married to them. He’d been buried in a shallow grave in the back yard years ago.”

I always laugh, but when we fight… I sleep with one eye open.

All kidding aside, she got through her episode with the Karate Girl and Kansas Miyagi with her witness intact.

She rocks.

I pushed away from the breakfast table with a full belly and with more than just a little haughtiness that we didn’t act like those animals that were shopping with us.

A little later in the day, after the shopping was starting to fade into memory I had to put on a suit and go perform a small wedding at the church.

When all was said and done and I was making an exit from the building as the last guy there, which happens a lot, something very quiet, yet illuminating happened.

I turned off a light only to see the warm glow of a room at the other end of the hall in the opposite direction I was heading.

I ignored it and hit the next light on my route out and saw another room aglow just a few steps away. This time I walked over and turned it off.

Then in the last few steps I noticed the main hallway lights still burning, and even though those switches were further away than any of the  others I had flicked on my exit, I headed over to turn them off.

For whatever reason, the Lord had me process my decision making on this exit. You know we all process and calculate our decisions for the mundane things faster than we actually understand them, but here is what came out of my light-flicking illumination:

  • Why am I turning off lights anyway? It saves the church money. It’s being a good steward. You’re the last man out, so the responsibility is yours. And, though it’s not in the official personnel description (chief light flicker), it is your job.
  • When I noticed the first light on at the end of the long hallway I chose to ignore it. Why? “Dude, that’s at the other end of the building. I’m supposed to get two days off for this holiday and I’ve worked both of them. One light isn’t going to kill anybody. I’m gonna make like a tree and disembark.”
  • When I noticed the second light closer, I turned it off. Why? “Well… they still owe me, but this one’s close. I’ll get it.”
  • When I noticed the main hallway lights on I turned them off without hesitating. Why? “Duh? It’s the first thing people see when they come in the building, and if I leave these on someone will call me on it.”

So, let’s recap.

  • I left the first light on because I’m selfish and feel the world owes me something, I’m just that good. That’s a gross sense on entitlement.
  • The second light I turned off because I’m lazy, just not that lazy.
  • The third light (main hallway) I turned off almost as a reflex because even though I am self-focused, self-pitying and lazy… I still want to look good in front of people.

It was in that moment I loosened my tie a little and realized my behavior isn’t much better than those department store barbarians from earlier in the day. I’ve just learned how to sanitize my image for public consumption.

Maybe you do the same thing. If you so, here’s some Biblical advice for us both.

First, when we start operating in that sense of entitlement when we think someone owes us something, or we deserve better, remember this:

Job 38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm.

He said:

2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel

with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;

I will question you,

and you shall answer me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

Who stretched a measuring line across it?

6 On what were its footings set,

or who laid its cornerstone—

7 while the morning stars sang together

and all the angelsa shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors

when it burst forth from the womb,

9 when I made the clouds its garment

and wrapped it in thick darkness,

10 when I fixed limits for it

and set its doors and bars in place,

11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;

here is where your proud waves halt’? [1]

This goes on for two full chapters before:

The Lord said to Job:

2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?

Let him who accuses God answer him!”

3 Then Job answered the Lord:

4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?

I put my hand over my mouth.

5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—

twice, but I will say no more.” [2]

Truth is God, this world and those in it owe us nothing. We should act out of our own sense of what God’s word says is right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances.

Second,  when our actions are lacking due to laziness, remember this:

Proverbs 6 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;

consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander,

no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer

and gathers its food at harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?

When will you get up from your sleep?

10 A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit

and scarcity like an armed man[3]

Apparently, God does not tolerate laziness and we shouldn’t reward it in others or in ourselves.

Third, when we do what we do because of the people watching, remember this

Matthew 6 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.[4]

This really is the point, isn’t it? Why we should do what we should do.

So that your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Not rewarded by the public, not rewarded by yourself, but by the One.

May this holiday and every season be the season of action as you do what you should do, for the right reason.


aHebrew the sons of God

[1]The Holy Bible  : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Job 38:1-11.

[2]The Holy Bible  : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Job 40:1-5.

[3]The Holy Bible  : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Pr 6:6-11.

[4]The Holy Bible  : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Mt 6:1-4.

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