What You Should Do when Nobody’s Looking

Rolodex cards
Photo image: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidewalk_flying/2421382093/">Seth Sawyers</a>

Malachi 1:6-9

“A son honors his father. An employee respects her employer. But if I am a father, where’s my honor. If I’m an employer, where’s my respect?” says God to you priests who despise me.

“How have we despised you?” you ask.

“By coming to my alter with polluted food.”

“How have we polluted your food?” you ask.

“When you tell yourselves you can get away with bringing blind animals for sacrifice, isn’t that evil? When you bring lame or sick animals, isn’t that evil? Would you bring that crap to the President? Would he say it was ok and put you in his Rolodex?” God says.

“And now you have the nerve to ask me for favors and want me to do all kinds of special things for you?” says God. “It’s your own fault if you think I’m going to do you any favors.”

What do you do when nobody’s looking? How do you behave when you’re pretty sure nobody’s ever going to find out what you did?

Do you still do your best work? Or do you cut corners?

God is the great invisible. Even if you don’t believe in God, the point is that what you do when nobody’s watching is still important. It works precisely because you can’t see God. So it’s as if nobody is watching. But it’s still important. And it will still matter when your work, whatever that work is, needs to be turned in.

It will show in the quality of the final product. In the virtuosity of the performance. In the attitude of the presentation. In the effect of the service. In the intrinsic reward of having done something worth doing. Think about it. Who are you really fooling? Whose experience and life are you really diminishing by holding back your very best? And if it’s not God (and whose to say God might be looking?) and nobody else is looking, then it must be you.

The moral of the story: When nobody else is looking, act in such a way that you’d put your name in your own Rolodex.

How Not to Prove You Love Someone

twins
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/raleene/2109917367/">Raleen Cabrera</a>

Malachi 1:1-5

A word of advice. God’s advice to Israel via Malachi.

“I’ve always loved you,” God says. “But you say, ‘How have you loved us?'”

“Isn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” God says. “But I loved Jacob and hated Esau. I’ve desolated Esau’s hills, and made the territory he inherited into a wasteland for jackals. As often as Edom says, ‘We may be down, but we’ll rebuild the ruins,'” God says, “They may rebuild. But I’ll keep tearing it down until they realize that they are the evil nation with whom God is eternally irate.

“You will see this with your own eyes and say, ‘God is great, even outside our borders.'”

Here’s an instance of a common misconception codified into Biblical stone. The misconception is this:

To know what love is, you have to know what hate is by comparison.

You’ll often hear it as: “If you didn’t have the bad, you wouldn’t be able to recognize and appreciate what’s good.” Same thing. The idea that the only way you can know about one thing is to know about its opposite.

But it’s just not true. Think about all the people living in tropical parts of the world that know what hot is without ever having experienced cold. Or all the Eskimos who never made it to Puerto Rico or Hawaii to experience what hot is.

You can experience love without proving it by comparison to hate. Good without comparison to bad.

It would be wrong, of course, to say that some of us will never experience hatred or evil. We will experience those things, too. But you’ll certainly be able to recognize them for what they are rather than by what they are the opposite of. Both certainly exist. And yes, they’re opposites. And yes, good and love is preferable over evil and hatred. But one is possible without the other. And who I love isn’t predicated on whether I hate someone else in equal measure. Same goes for you. Same goes for God.

So either God is mistaken about the need to be eternally hateful to some in order to prove God’s love to others, or Malachi is. I prefer to think it’s Malachi.