I walked out of the grocery store twice in the last week with items I didn’t pay for. Almond milk one time, and pepperoni the other. They were in the lower part of the cart, and I neglected to scan them – one time at the self-checkout and another when I had the clerk doing all the work. I discovered the mishap when I unloaded the cart into my car and there they were. My ill-gotten gains. Immediately I said two things to myself. First, I don’t want to go back in there again, nobody will know, I’ll just keep them. The second, I must go back and pay for these, no other option, they’re not mine. I had to be honest. Thankfully, the second thought won out.
I had to scratch my head though when reflecting on the two choices that passed through my psyche for only a split second. It felt like one of the angel and devil on the shoulder commercials. The first one I can remember dates back to 1999. Subway was taking a shot at Burger King and the Whopper’s 40 grams of fat compared to the Subway sandwiches. The devil was saying go Whopper, the Angel, of course, go Subway. Pretty funny. This little temptation wasn’t all that funny to me though when I thought about how seductive the enemy can be. Likely only me, God, and the devil would have known it happened if I just loaded my car and fled the scene.
Our enemy is slick though. Sometimes in the subtleties of life, we face a decision to compromise our integrity. Oftentimes in a seemingly tiny thing, we open ourselves up to other not-so-tiny things. James (Jesus’ half-brother) put it very well in the first chapter of his letter. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
I’m not thinking I would have died on the spot, but something inside of me would have. Here’s what I’m thankful for today. As a friend of Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit in me, connected with my conscience enough to say – NO – at least to that particular temptation.
This little event that only my wife knows about, and now you, got my attention. Why did this happen twice in one week? I know, I know, my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. That’s not it. Someone besides me needed to hear this. Maybe that person is you. Hang in there. Be honest. You just never know who might be watching, but more importantly, compromise and dishonesty don’t win. Nor does that devil on your shoulder.