Busted! My wife sheepishly peered past my outstretched finger, letting her eyes settle on my accusatory expression. She was trapped. A few minutes earlier, I had ventured into our “pantry,” which is actually a corner of the basement cordoned off for storage. I had set off on a quest for tea bags, but a repurposed plastic grocery sack captured my attention. It was lying partially open, revealing its contents: a stash of Christmas candy. Apparently my resourceful partner was already storing up treats in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season (which was still seven months away).
Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed that several wrappers were interestingly devoid of their contents. Curious indeed. My amateur detective skills quickly solved the mystery. Someone had been enjoying the Christmas season a little early.
Now my wife shifted nervously on the other end of my accusing finger, an amusingly guilty expression illuminating her own face. I did not have to explain what I meant by “busted!” She knew it. She had been caught. For several seconds no words were spoken. Even so, there was no time to conjure up a credible excuse. Only two people have access to that forbidden corner of the house, and I was innocent. Granted, things might have been different had I known the candy was there, but that is beside the point.
I could sense the wheels turning in her head. Surely, there must be some unwary suspect who could shoulder the blame for this atrocity. Maybe the dog did it. Whoops, we don’t have a dog. Maybe it was the kids. No, the kids never go into that room. They know that’s where we keep future gifts, and if they are caught sneaking a peek, they risk “getting nothin’ for Christmas.” Besides, most children are conniving enough to hide the evidence.
There was nothing left to do but confess and grant me permission to publish this incriminating tale. After all, when you live in a pastor’s home, everything serves as fair game for a sermon illustration.
As we laughed about this incident, a certain phrase came to our minds, one that you have likely used often yourself. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
Did you know that is from the Bible?
Moses, the reluctant but faithful leader of the ancient Israelites, coined the phrase. As he was preparing his people to cross over the Jordan River and embark on the conquest of their new homeland, two of the tribes approached him with a request. Recognizing that the land east of the river provided excellent grazing for their livestock, and they preferred to settle there.
At first, Moses was infuriated. He suspected that their motivation was to avoid going to war. However, they promised to assist their brothers in the conquest of the land in the west, if only they could settle their families on the east side of the river.
Moses agreed to this plan on one condition: all the able men would help fight. If some stayed behind, the deal was off. For good measure, he cautioned them not to try to pull a “fast one” on God, solemnly uttering the famous admonition: “If you do not do so…be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
That warning is quite chilling, if you think about it. With the large number of Israelites entering Canaan, Moses might never know if some shirked their duty.
However, it was not Moses they should fear, but God. One way or another, He would expose their sin, regardless of how hard they worked to conceal it.
Here is something to consider. The same God who observed the secret lives of the Israelites is also keeping tabs on us. Those little sins that we think we have hidden deep within the safety of our thoughts become illuminated under God’s piercing gaze. The hatred, greed, and jealousy that we mask with religious piety boldly manifest their existence to God.
God knows about all of our sins, including the secret ones. We would do well to confess and forsake them, lest we reap the deserved consequences. Those consequences may be much more severe than being caught pilfering Christmas candy from the secret stash.
This article appeared in the Bremen Enquirer in my column Connections: Relating the Bible to Everyday Life on Thursday, June 11, 2015.