Luke 16:10

Tim Lucas exhorts us to live honest lives.

Tim Lucas
Tim Lucas

Recently my wife and I wanted to paint our garden fence. However, we hit a snag when we remembered that the border connecting our house with next door's is legally their responsibility. So even though we were painting our side of the fence, technically they own the fence and therefore we would need permission.

When checking this out, one of my friends said, "What if you don't get the answer you want? Don't ask, just do it," followed by another comment that said, "Ask forgiveness, not permission." All of which got me thinking.

In Luke 16, Jesus says, 'One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.' I think that gives us some very clear guidelines on how to handle issues like this. What Jesus is essentially saying is that however we act with these smaller, seemingly insignificant decisions, demonstrates how we will act with bigger ones. And the other way round also - that how we would act with big decisions should inform how we approach smaller issues.

For example, I wouldn't take their car without asking because I want it and know that if I ask them they will say no. We know that is theft. Or I wouldn't hold back from asking if I can paint their house fluorescent green because I know they will say no, but I want to do it. And if I wouldn't do that for the bigger decisions, I shouldn't do it for the smaller ones. Jesus is really asking for consistency in those who follow Him. However we act in the small should be exactly the same as we would act in the big.

Often that is recognising that you might have to ask the permission of someone else. And that's ok. The whole notion of 'ask forgiveness, not permission' revolves around the assumption that you have more authority than anyone else. 'Whatever they say doesn't matter because I know best, so I'll just do it and then they'll have to just learn to forgive me.' Can you see the corruption in that way of thinking? Christianity doesn't treat other people like slaves who simply have to learn to live with us, but as brothers and sisters who we give honour and respect to. 'Ask forgiveness, not permission' is intensely selfish, self-centred and self-serving, and deeply, deeply ungodly.

So in the interest of being faithful, honouring and respectful, we did the right thing and asked our neighbours whether we could paint the fence. But this is only one decision in the middle of so many that we will make in our lives, and it is only one example hidden among all the other decisions that you will make along the way in your life. Always, the challenge of Jesus is to be consistent with our choices, to honour others and to be respectful. That may sound very easy (and a little bit fluffy), but when it has to do with every single decision and every single action we take, it can be quite hard.

May you learn how to be faithful with little, and how to be faithful with much.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.