How would you feel if you knew your actions were being watched and followed by others around you?
Can you think of yourself as an example that others can follow, not only in your best moments, but also in the moments when you were tempted to anger or impure thoughts?
Everything we do has an influence or effect on the others around us. Our younger brothers and sisters or friends form opinions and pick up habits from us. People at work see how we live our lives by being together with us on the job. Unbelievers get an idea of Christianity from us.
Our goal is not to make ourselves look better than we are in front of others. That’s just pride – it is a lie and will be revealed one day. But our decisions can mean something to 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 what a shame it would be to lead someone in the wrong direction because I decided to give in to my sin! 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 (NLT) speaks of how serious this is: “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” This doesn’t mean that we say it is right to physically punish someone who has been a bad influence, but it does mean that the effects of our decisions can have eternal results, not just for ourselves but also for others, and that’s an important responsibility.
A person who chooses to do the good encourages others to do good. And 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 like 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 awake, not just trying to look good in front of others, but really live a hidden life with Christ so that the only thing others experience from us is goodness and purity.
Our hidden life
What about when I am tempted when I am alone? If others could see into my thought life when I am on my own, would I still be a good example? Is it possible for us to influence others with choices I’ve made when nobody else is watching? Yes, for sure! These moments are very serious as well.
It is not shameful to be tempted – but the important thing is what I choose when I am tempted, whether someone is watching me or not. These choices are revealed over time in how we act, and in how we are able to show care and thankfulness.
“Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” Hebrews 13:7 (NLT). What is the result of how we live? It is clear that our hidden life is holding us back when we are for example not willing to help others because we have a guilty conscience or when we can’t look someone in the eye because we are afraid that they might know what we are doing in the hidden.
We reap what we sow
One day we will stand before the face of God and will be held responsible for our actions. If we allow sin to come into our heart it will have negative results for ourselves and for others. “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT).
In the Bible we have the instructions on how to live 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!