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Premeditated Dishonesty

Tom Arthur

When I was in third grade, I saw in the grocery store a box of jacks with a rubber bouncy ball. I didn’t want the jacks, but I did want the rubber ball. The only problem was that I didn’t have the money to buy it. So I stole it. As I was trying to open the package of jacks, the plastic burst open and jacks fell all over the floor. I grabbed the bouncy ball and ran.

ball and jacks FTR TSP 113584351I didn’t get caught that day, but I’ve never forgotten stealing the little red bouncy ball. Whenever I see a bouncy ball, I think of that moment. I never even enjoyed playing with the ball. I felt too guilty and ashamed.

Some sins are spontaneous. In the moment, we don’t have the strength of goodness to resist temptation. I lied one time at work to get myself out of a corner. I didn’t plan on lying; but in that moment, I simply didn’t have the strength of virtue in me to tell the truth when I knew the truth would hurt. Later, I went back and confessed to the person I had lied to. She forgave me, and I no longer feel guilty or ashamed.

Stealing the ball was a premeditated sin. It was planned. I knew what I wanted. I knew stealing was wrong. I made a plan, and I executed the plan: I stole the ball. Nothing about it was spontaneous. I carry around the memory of that sin like a splinter in my conscience.

So when we’ve been dishonest or committed another sin, what do we do? First, we confess the sin to God. When King David used the power of his position to commit all kinds of dishonest acts against Bathsheba and Uriah, the prophet Nathan confronted him and David confessed his sin (2 Samuel 11–12). His prayer, Psalm 51, is one of the most beautiful confessional prayers ever written. David recognized that when we sin, we sin first and foremost against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4a, NRSV). When I stole the ball from the grocery store, I sinned against the store owner, but I also sinned against God. So first, when we sin, we confess our sin to God.

Second, we figure out what we can do to make things right. One big difference between telling the lie at work and stealing the ball is that I never went back to the grocery store to make amends. I didn’t reconcile my relationship with the owner of the store by apologizing or by paying for the jacks. Not only was my sin premeditated, but it broke a relationship that continues to be broken. I’ve thought about making amends, but I haven’t done it. Maybe I will. I could pay for the toy with interest, do community service, or do whatever seems appropriate to the store owner. I think it would be good for my soul.

 

DIG DEEPER

Read 2 Samuel 11–12 and Psalm 51. What are moments of dishonesty—either spontaneous or premeditated—that you need to confess to God and to make right with your friends, teachers, parents, or family? Take time this week to make amends, to make it right with God by making it right with others.

Tom Arthur is the pastor of Sycamore Creek Church in Lansing, Michigan, where he lives with his wife, Sarah, and his two boys, Sam and Micah.

—from devozine (September/October 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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