How would you feel if you knew your actions were being watched and mimicked by others around you?
Can you think of yourself as a role model that would be worth following after, not only in your best moments, but also in the moments when you were tempted to anger or impure thoughts?
We don’t live in a bubble. Everything we do has an influence on the others around us. Our younger siblings or friends form opinions and pick up habits by spending time with us. Colleagues at work get an impression of how we live our lives through conversation and time spent together on the job. Unbelievers get an idea of Christianity from us.
Our goal is not to present ourselves as being something greater than we are. That’s just pride – and this lie will be revealed one day. But our decisions can have value for others when we choose to live a faithful life. We can see this in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
Our great responsibility
A few verses earlier, in 1 Timothy 4:12, we can read “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” It is a great responsibility to be an example to the believers. Think of the shame it would be to steer someone in the wrong direction because I decided to give in to my sin! Regardless of whether we influence someone knowingly to give in to sin or if we do it unconsciously, there can be a terrible result. Being selfish teaches others how to be selfish.
Matthew 18:6 speaks of the seriousness of this: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” This doesn’t mean that we justify capital punishment to someone who has been a bad influence, but it does mean that the effects of our decisions can have eternal consequences, not just for ourselves but also for others, and that’s an important responsibility to be aware of.
A person who chooses to do the good encourages others to do good. Likewise, a person who chooses to do evil encourages others to do evil. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7. Our actions are seeds. They will grow and develop into a harvest that we one day will reap.
What will your harvest be? Will you be one who gave others the temptation to think: “Well, if he did it, then I can too?” Have you given others an excuse to sin?
We need to be on guard and vigilant, not just presenting ourselves in a good way before others, but really living a hidden life with Christ so that the only taste the others get of us is goodness and purity.
Our hidden life
What about when temptations come at me when I am alone? If others could see into my thought life when I am on my own, would they still think of me as a good example? Is it possible for us to influence others with the choices we’ve made when nobody else is watching? Absolutely! These moments are very serious as well.
We can begin to think that it is possible to live a double life without any issues, where we appear faithful when others are watching but give in to our sinful tendencies in the hidden. There’s no shame in being tempted – the important part is my decision, be it right or wrong, regardless of if anyone is watching me. These decisions are revealed over time in how we act, how we are able to show care and thankfulness.
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” Hebrews 13:7. What is the outcome of our conduct? It is clear that our hidden life is holding us back if we are reluctant to help others because we harbor a guilty conscience or when we can’t meet someone’s eye, living in fear that that they might know how we really have it.
We reap what we sow
One day we will stand before the face of God to be held accountable for our actions. We can’t openly allow sin to flood into our heart without expecting negative repercussions for ourselves and for others. “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23.
In the Bible we have been given the instructions necessary for living a life that is pleasing to God – a life where we can help and encourage others. What a glorious life we can have when we choose to live as an example for the good!