For the past several months, a combination of VERY tight finances and a dog that is just emerging from puppyhood has meant that 3 out of our family of 7 have been wearing shoes that most people would probably just toss (the other 4 have been making do with 1 pair of shoes). However, since we couldn’t really afford to replace them, we made do and were only occasionally embarrassed when someone noticed the teeth marks (actually, it’s fairly surprising how few people notice your shoes…another thought for another day).
This week we got our tax refund money, and after taking care of some important things, my thoughts turned to shoes. So I spent a night or two on ebay putting in bids on brand name, but used, shoes to replace the chewed ones. After actually winning all of the auctions (yay! gotta love holiday weekends!) and paying for all of my choices…the guilt set in. I spent how much on shoes?!?? Granted, the total amount I spent on shoes for 4 people, even though name brand, is probably less than most men would spend on a pair of dress shoes, but it seemed like an awful lot of money to me once it left our bank account!
And that got me thinking…why, really, am I feeling guilty for replacing broken shoes for my family? Is this true or false guilt?
Let me explain. I believe that part of the result of having a “sin” nature, having been born with a proclivity for evil (Genesis 6:5), means that humans have “seared” (burnt like steak) consciences. Some of us do not feel guilty for doing things that are, actually, wrong and that we should feel guilt over. I can think of a few stellar examples but will not share them. However, I think everyone can think of someone who did something awful and somehow doesn’t seem bothered by it in the least. To me, this is a True guilt.
Then there is False guilt. This is the guilt people feel over doing something that is not actually wrong, or the guilt felt over a circumstance that a person actually had no control over. This is the kind of guilt that makes someone puke up a meal because they don’t believe that they deserved to eat it, or the guilt that a hostess feels over having a luncheon ruined by rain. This kind of guilt is FALSE.
To believe in this distinction, of course you have to have an objective set of what is actually right and what is actually wrong to think/say/do. Obviously a debated topic but I am going to skip over all that and say that since I am a Christian, I am going with the belief that it is what GOD says is right and wrong that is important, and that information can be found in His word to us, the Bible, and in the life and actions of His son, Jesus. Proverbs 30:5 says that, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Works for me. :)
So should I go with my “feeling” of guilt over buying shoes or should I check what the Bible says? Again, if my heart is as wicked as the Bible says, can I trust it to tell me if I have actually done something wrong? I believe that the answer is no. No matter what I feel about something, whether it is guilt or assurance that I was in the right, I have to check my feelings against the Bible.
For me, this little matter of buying new shoes ended up being a fairly simple one to analyze once I actually thought about it. The Bible says that believers should take care of their families or they are worse than unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8). It also says to be a good steward of what God gives you. I chose to buy used shoes that will last a long time, so I think that qualifies as taking care of the finances God has given us. So in the end, my feeling of guilt over buying shoes for my family is, according to God’s word, a feeling of false guilt. Phew. :)
But it also reminded me of an important truth of Christianity. Christianity says that even though our hearts are evil, Jesus Christ died to take away the just punishment for our sins and if we believe in him, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1. Therefore, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22. We should feel the guilt of our sins, of doing things that actually are _wrong_, but if we are Christian we need to remember that He has taken away our guilt in front of God. Once forgiven, those sins should not and cannot condemn us anymore! Our hearts have been cleaned. While it can be tempting to allow guilt for past wrong actions to haunt us (and our adversary, the devil, is always happy to accuse us), we need to remember that in Christ we have been forgiven! Hallelujah!
Happy Palm Sunday. =D