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Suppose God Wasn’t Watching you? Would You Still be Good? — 26 Comments

  1. So my question is do we only do good because there is a God? I would say yes. Should we do good if God doesnt exist? Whats the purpose of that? If there is no reward of an afterlife then there is no need to do good. God promised us a reward for being faithful. Because we love him, and because he died for us, thats our motivation. When I do good i know it pleases God, otherwise there would be no point in doing "the right thing" At that point situational ethics would be prevalent. Maybe im missing something but it sounds like ur saying even if God doesnt exist we should have integrity or are you saying if God isnt watching we should still have integrity. i apologize if i missed ur point.

    • I think of it like this. A woman usually yields herself (in marriage of course) to a man who is loving, kind, romantic and so on. A rude and offensive man wouldn't even get the time of day. However, while there's nothing wrong with the good man looking forward to that moment with her (again in marriage), or in being motivated by the fact that loving men usually find success with women, there would be something seriously off if that same man only did what he did for...that. Intimacy is cheapened if it's treated as an exchange of goods. As the woman gives her "reward" (in marriage) to the man who shows her love for its own sake, so Jesus will reward those who loved Him for the sake of it.

      • Are you saying Jesus only rewards those who love Him just because? Then what is the reward you are talking about? Salvation is a gift to us not because we love Him but because He loved us. And because He loved us and sacrificed His life for us, I personally am drawn to that and that is why I love Him. Romans 3 tells us that no one is righteous (vs. 10), no one seeks God (vs. 11), and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (vs. 23). In Matthew 16:16-17, when Peter told Jesus he believed Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus told him the Father revealed this to him. So I am just making sure the comment is about blessings and not about salvation. When we respond to Jesus love and follow His commands, He tells us that we are rewarded with blessings from the Father. But this is not about salvation.

        • Yes we are saved by faith in Jesus alone, and we keep His commandments because it's just good to be good for goodness sake, and all such people be brought to Heaven. Nothing to be confused about.

    • Lawrence, your question takes us in a different direction. If there were no God, would we even exist?

      The rest of your comment sounds a bit as though the only reason to do good is because of the rewards in the next world. I don't think this is true. I believe that God only asks us to live in a way that is best for us. Thus even in this world and in the worst of circumstances, those who truly trust God will always have more peace and joy than those who do not. This is evident in the true stories told in the books in the SSNET Amazon store, for instance. (I find that reading how others found God to be faithful strengthens my own faith.)

      But I believe there's more to it: When we truly get to know Jesus and allow Him to change our hearts to be like His, we will love like He does, regardless of who is watching. It will be part of our nature, as it is part of His.

    • I would add to Lawrence's thought that if God is not watching, He is not God as He has presented Himself to fallen mankind. That He watches is emphatically pointed out in scripture. It is to lead us to consider our ways and to "fear the Lord". Joseph gave his reason for fidelity when tempted to "sin against God". Solomon's solemn "conclusion of the whole matter" in the last two verses of Ecclesiastes reminds us of God's close watching of every word and deed.(To those with faith, this is encouraging, to sinners, a warning)

      Our motives are not to be fear of punishment, for I will predict that NONE will be in heaven who "obeyed" from fear of flames. None. So what is our motive?...that God cares so much! For what? For US! Sinners, whom He has provided with the Propitiation, that He might grant us life eternal and peace today. When we "see" His goodness we repent. No one truly repents because of the flames. But the flames are promised, as warning to lead us to seek what God has offered as an escape from the inevitability of the flames, and to encourage us that justice will be done at last.

      About the surprise of those in the parable of sheep and goats; was Jesus aware that He was doing His Father's appointed work? Were the servants in the parable just before the sheep and goats aware of what they were doing? We work with purpose, not by accident.

      We should know daily if we are serving the Lord or not. The Holy Spirit is given to convict us of such things so we can find help in time of need. If we daily seek to know and follow God's will, there is no surprise. Also, the reward already promised is not the motive, instead the motive will be the Love behind the giving of the Gift of Life to all who believe. Our faith in God's promises will transform us and the motives for our righteous deeds will be the same as Christ's: the real needs around us that we can supply. We will love our fellow man as God has loved us. Our motive will be from within as we behold those in such need as we were before we believed. It will be a joy to lift up the fallen, pointing the lost to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life.

      The parable of sheep and goats teaches a truth, but not a reality. Does that make sense? Not sure if I can explain it adequately here, but look at the story prayerfully and ask for help to understand it's meaning for you.

      That God is watching so closely cheers His sons and daughters in this life. It brings hope, strength and faith. "I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go, I will guide you with MY eye upon you", and "I am with you always" are the most wonderful promise for the trails, temptations and perplexities I face daily.

      Our Father wants us to know He is watching us so closely, and that He will uphold us "with His Victorious right Arm". (capitalization, mine. I think it fits.)

        • William, your post has made many good points, yet it leaves me with some questions concerning what you are actually saying.

          When you write:

          "do we only do good because God is watching? If so, isn't that very legalistic and works-orientated – to only do good so long as there is a God Who is watching and waiting to reward our good behavior and punish our bad behavior?",

          I feel something isn't right. It's as if keeping God always before us(Ps 16:8) is not a good thing to do, but I can't begin to imagine you would suggest that. Yet it almost seems to suggest it as I read it. God wants us to know this. As I wrote above, it seems almost urgent that we never forget. Could our natural weakness be the reason God gives this "incentive" such emphasis?

          The other part about the sheep being surprised I addressed above. These are my only questions concerning your post. Perhaps I have just misunderstood what you mean.

          I agree with you that the sheep are motivated out of love for those around them in need. They seek to uplift their fellow man out of genuine desire to help. This is the result of being transformed by the renewing of their minds by taking the yoke of Jesus and learning of Him. No disagreement there.

  2. One thousand Amens to this post! This I believe is the most simplest argument to the old "why do we need works if we're saved by faith" question. No need for a complicated breakdown of the difference between justification and sanctification. Just simply tell them "it's just good to show love for its own sake." Asking Jesus "how come I don't get something for not robbing my neighbors at gun point" is just...strange.

    I believe those who make it through the time of trouble will be strict followers of the commandments. Not because they want to be "ready" when Christ returns or found "spotless" after the close of probation. But because they can't live with the thought of hurting their God or other people whom they love dearly. This strikes at the heart of both legalism which seeks reward and cheap grace which seeks to justify hatred. Heaven will be populated by people who are strict about good works because anything less is to justify someone else's mistreatment.

    Lastly, am I the only one who cringes whenever someone from the pew to the pulpit declares that we should "finish the work" so we can go to heaven already? As if the reason we should share the gospel is not to populate heaven with as many new friends as possible, but to get ourselves out of this sin sick world. Do we not think that people can read our efforts as seriously self serving? I believe that when we share the gospel out of a deep love for people, to save them no matter how long it takes, Jesus will return. Not because He saw our efforts and sped up the clock, but because as the old maxim states, time flies when your having fun.

  3. This is a wonderful perspective indeed. Reminds of Enoch when he walked with God. Spirit of prophecy reveals that though he did not see a difference between the fate of the wicked and the righteous he remained upright nonetheless. He did good because he loved to do right, he loved the way of truth and so he was doing good because it was good and not merely because he was seeking a reward. May we all live our lives in this way!

      • Enoch was not omniscient. He was shown the reward, yes, however, having to be shown something means there was a period of time when he was ignorant of this knowledge. It also means that in spite of his ignorance Enoch served God and did good for the sake of it. Chris's point still stands.

        • Robert, thanks for those scripture references. They are poignant ones. In addition to my initial comment, kindly see the spirit of prophecy quote I was referring to in my last comment:

          "Enoch had been troubled in regard to the dead. It had seemed to him that the righteous and the wicked would go to the dust together, and that this would be their end. He could not see the life of the just beyond the grave. In prophetic vision he was instructed concerning the death of Christ, and was shown His coming in glory, attended by all the holy angels, to ransom His people from the grave. He also saw the corrupt state of the world when Christ should appear the second time—that there would be a boastful, presumptuous, self-willed generation, denying the only God and the Lord Jesus Christ, trampling upon the law, and despising the atonement. He saw the righteous crowned with glory and honor, and the wicked banished from the presence of the Lord, and destroyed by fire. {PP 85.6}"

          If you read the preceding few paragraphs that come before this paragraph you will see that Enoch had indeed grown from strength to strength in his faith DESPITE this lack of understanding regarding the fate of the righteous and the wicked until such a time as it was revealed to him. Application point: will I serve God faithfully even when I don't fully understand His will, even when it doesnt make sense and would I do this even if I didnt know of the coming reward of the righteous?

          • Chris and Bensheh, we have to consider certain facts: the promise made to Adam and Eve was faithfully taught, with Adam remaining alive for nearly 1000 years. Before the flood, Eden stood with the angelic sentinel guarding the way to the Tree of Life. Death and it's apparent finality was obviously a test of faith for Enoch until his seeking the truth was rewarded. Didn't the Thessalonian believers face the same perplexity some 4000+ years later? Yet the hope of Jesus soon return inspired their faith in the promised return for the righteous and the wages of sin for the unrepentant. This is how it is with us isn't it? We find the light, but it will never be the whole light as we must advance by faith. (Prov 4:18) God allows us to face perplexities that require faith in us in order to advance.

            Enoch knew the Law of God, of creation, the fall, forgiveness through the sacrifice of the "Lamb" and the promise of restoration through a coming Redeemer. It seems that the reality of death created a problem while they expected redemption at any time. Eve's hope in the birth of her sons reveals this. Before the resurrection truth was presented, imminent salvation was still their hope. Yes, with it's rewards for the righteous and unrighteous.

            My devotional "Christ Triumphant" shared this today:
            "Enoch walked with God three hundred years previous to his translation to heaven, and the state of the world was not then more favorable for the perfection of Christian character than it is today. And how did Enoch walk with God? He educated his mind and heart to ever feel that he was in the presence of God, and when in perplexity his prayers would ascend to God to keep him. He refused to take any course that would offend his God. He kept the Lord continually before him. He would pray, “Teach me Thy way, that I may not err. What is Thy pleasure concerning me? What shall I do to honor Thee, my God?”"

            Enoch's ever growing knowledge of God was enough to have such faith at every stage. I believe there is sufficient light available to any willing to follow it's advance no matter where they begin. Conviction of "sin, righteousness and judgment" according to our opportunities and circumstances is all we need. We are accountable for nothing more than what we have today which will always lead to greater light tomorrow. Enoch did not start his journey of faith in total darkness.

            Today what do we have? Incredible the truth available today for anyone willing to sacrifice every idol to obtain it. We have all of scripture, the life and teachings of Jesus, Ellen's elaborations on the scriptures and I believe personal enlightenment that still comes and will continue until the last day. Every step will be through faith as our profession will be tested and proved through trials and temptations. God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

  4. In the beginning the LORD created Adam & Eve good, at the end of the 6th day he pronounced everything very good.
    Then evil entered the world, but Jesus came to save us from our sins, he told us we need to be born again. Paul tell us if we are in Christ we are a new creation. Paul goes further and say Christ lives in us.

    Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf.

    So if we have allowed the LORD to change our hearts to be like His we will automatically be good.

    Is this a radical statement? Shouldn't we take Him at His Word?

  5. It is rewarding to know that I can serve people regardless of his/her economic or social status simpy because I love God's people. Serving people is so rewarding to me. I get so much joy out of helpling people in need. My mind is not focused on whether or not God is watching me. He promised never to leave or forsake me. It is God who is working through me reaching out to His creation. I simply surrender my life to Him every day so that He can use me.

  6. Amazing!It's that's true.Too often we Christians get motivated to do the right because we are assured of reward(Revelation 22:12),but according to the commandments we are to serve and live for our fellow men because we have love.Love is what makes us like God in character and nature.We can become better people,and Christians alike if our deeds are those that reflect the pure nature of God-Love.The act of rendering love,kindness,mercy and all that is good is simply a gift(given to us by God freely) that should be distributed to all men freely without even a thought of a reward for what we cannot possibly do in our carnal nature.True love and service to God and fellow men is none other giving up your life unselfishly for a priceless reward(nothing) but love.

  7. Thank you William for a thought provoking post!
    From the time I was a little girl, I thought on my own how to help my mother and make the people in my family happy. At that point in my life, I went to church and Catholic school, but the concept of a live God wasn't something I knew about. I liked to help and care about others and be busy. It made me happy and the others in the family. When I learned about a live God, I continued to be the same kind of person. I think God was working in my heart from the time I was young and I let Him. As an adult, there was a year or so when I lived mostly and only for myself, didn't go to church or think about God at all, and I was not a happy camper.

  8. This is in response to some of the comments earlier but we have run out of reply levels so I am adding my post to the end.

    When I was a little kid My mother used to watch the biscuit tin. She did not have to watch it all the time because she had a pretty good eye and could count and could tell if naughty little boys had been raiding the tin. The rule was that we were only to have biscuits at tea time.

    My mother is actually still alive (she turned 100 last year) but for the last 53 years she has not been watching the biscuit tin because we live in different countries now. I guess I could raid the biscuit tin any time I liked now if I wanted to, but I don't. Why? because somewhere a long time ago I learned that Mum's rule was not about when she was watching the cake tin, but about sharing with others and good healthy eating. In fact I don't have biscuits all that often (except some really healthy ones that we make ourselves from a CHIP recipe - but that is another story.)

    The key issue is that the rules of childhood were essentially a training ground for growing up and living appropriately. I learned that I did not have to do things just to please my mother but for a deep meaningful reason that somehow was written in my heart.

    The Bible makes in quite plain that God wants something more than just rule keeping. It uses language like - he wants our behaviour to come from our hearts and not just to satisfy the rules written on stone. The Bible even uses strong language about sacrifices and Sabbath-keeping being abhorrent to him particularly when you keep the rules and act without compassion to the poor and needy.

    I believe that God is watching us, not as the divine scorekeeper (we do that well enough in our own bodies) but in the sense that he is watching over us as we grow our sense of morality. William quite rightly points out that God's ideal for us is to internalise his love so that we act on principle and not because we fear God is watching.

    Having said that, we also need to understand that not everyone develops a deep sense of morality based on higher principles to the same level of maturity. We need to be careful how we speak to others about moral development and understanding because it is all to easy to become judgmental in what we say (sometimes even unintentionally).

    • Maurice, some questions and thoughts about your comment while being mostly in agreement with you and William...

      First, God is "not the Divine scorekeeper"? What does that mean? Are you suggesting God is not keeping account? Who's Law then is the standard if not God's? Who else must finally judge and destroy the wicked if not God?(Rev 20) Why would Solomon say the contrary, and who then would you suggest is keeping track of "every work...and every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil" which Solomon tells us "will be brought into Judgment"? What is being kept in God's "books" that Daniel saw would be opened in the judgment? How can God judge righteously without bringing "every idle word" into judgement as Jesus taught? Yet, this same God has made a way to escape it if we will receive it! (Jude 24)

      God has been deliberate to make known He is sovereign and that He will be just. He tells us both to warn us and to lead us to find the safety He has provided for all who will receive it. His purpose is always to save. Someone could read your statement as written and come away with an understanding that conflicts with God's Word. We must understand this correctly, and be careful how we express it, assuming nothing about those who will hear/read our words.

      Second, I believe the one truth that must always remain in the forefront whenever speaking about how sinners should act just like God; which is they can't. We are not capable of bringing from our hearts any Divine attributes without His constant grace and intervention that we must ask for and allow. The very presence of God in our lives is our salvation. We can't for a moment forget His promises or presence. Not from fear, but from need, the need HE tells us we have, which only He can provide. Our hearts are deceitful and we simply can't know it. We are naturally at enmity with God and cannot "keep" His law, though we can sometimes conform to the letter well enough to lead others to think we do. Read again Ps 139, especially the closing verses. We cannot accurately assess our motives ourselves or change ourselves.

      Third, have you considered why the rules were "written on stone"? Why was Israel told; "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."? "Blessed are they that do His commandments..." says Jesus.

      We are sinful sinners at best, and at our best, have nothing commendable to God. His word is clear about our need to overcome, and never will we obtain that victory without dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. Unlike mom, we need God always at our right hand so we cannot be moved to transgress. He is our motivation, Example and Strength. Only when He is close, real and personal can we see the Goodness that leads us to repent.

      Only God can convict us of our wrong motives, which we are not capable of understanding correctly ourselves. Our focus should always be God's promises, presence, and our need of faith in Him. The Bible urges us to examine our faith. This alone can lead us to obtain the right motives "by grace through faith". Right motives result from being sanctified.

      To quote my devotional today: "Your strength is wholly in God - in your simple, entire trust in God." (Ellen writing to her son Edson) If we focus on having the correct motives without magnifying the Source of our strength, what can we hope to accomplish? A small shift in the emphasis can bring perfect balance to every "truth" presented. If this is lacking, some might get the wrong message.

      • Hi Robert. I think we both understand that God wants our hearts in a love relationship. I recognise the idea that all our good ideas come from God, but ultimately you and I have to exercise the free choice given to us by God to grow that relationship and make it work.

        I am married to one woman. I have a piece of paper hidden in the bottom of one of my cupboards that says I have a contractual responsibility in the law to that one woman. I fulfill that law by not chasing after other women, by sharing or financial responsibilities, and by fulfilling the letter of the law. But the reason that our marriage has worked for 46 years is because we love one another and work on that relationship daily. If the piece of paper got lost, or indeed if there had never been a piece of paper, we would still be married because we love one another.

        That is what God wants - a relationship beyond the law. Hope that helps you understand what I mean.

        And if I am wrong, I better find that marriage certificate because I sure don't want to lose the relationship.

        • Maurice, I appreciate your analogy of relationship as a way to understand God's relationship with me, and vice versa. God in fact gave us marriage as an object lesson.

          I don't think there is any such thing as relationship beyond the law.
          If you define law as the 10 commandments, you are using a contingency law that was given or specifically appointed to point out sin in sinful human beings. It has been dominantly written in negation to give sinful humans parameters or limits in behavior, in the absence of internal proactive righteousness.

          On the law of love has been based all the Law and the Prophets, though still in a sinful condition.

          The Law of Love is the very identity of God: God is Love. God IS the eternal LAW: Justice and Love are one in God.

      • Robert, well said.
        I will add only one thought, not necessarily contrary.

        I am writing my own record of my life, every moment of my life. Heaven has the video tape; not because God has to set up the video, but that God knows everything from all eternity, including the minute details of my motives that may still be hidden from me.

        God plans to erase the video tape of my life; not through Divine forgetfulness; but because He can cover it with sacrificial blood and resurrected righteousness.

  9. The integrity of these Jehovah Witness children of God came from their relationship with God. It includes the awareness of God living in the heart through His Spirit, and God watching over their lives daily. We must never be surprised at the integrity of those who serve Vishnu, Allah or Yahweh (Jehovah), or Russians, Japanese or Americans, or Republicans, Democrats or Independents, for God has His children everywhere, who know His voice and follow Him. Only the Holy Spirit can bring transformation in the heart, turn one sinner to son, rescue from death to life, and they may be Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists or Catholics. Only the Holy Spirit, and none other, can work in the name of Jesus Christ to save those who do not know the name of Jesus Christ, but surrender to the Almighty God.

    William, I am glad you have been introduced to some of God's children who are Jehovah Witnesses. I have been introduced to a few myself, along with some who worship Brahma and some who worship Allah as well. An Iranian SDA Pastor tells of many who worship Allah who receive visions or dreams of Angels bringing them the message of Jesus Christ, working miracles on their behalf to bring them to the light of the Gospel. Someone asked one of those who received a vision and turned to Jesus Christ, having never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ: "How is it that you receive such miraculous interventions when most Christians do not?" (to that effect) The answer: "Maybe it is not as urgent for you Christians."

    If the discussion is around the issue of motive of SDA procrastination or negligence of generosity, since we only have enough to spend on ourselves, we can ask what is the motive of Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates today, on one hand, or on the opposite end, we can ask the motives of the Syrian woman who fed Elijah or the one who tossed her last coins into the offering plate, both complimented by Jesus Christ, and recognize that we are not the judges of motives except for the conviction of the Holy Spirit on our own condition. Maybe it is not as urgent for us, since we already know that the second coming of Jesus Christ is not going to be before the Gospel reaches every nation, and persecution has not started. We still have plenty time to still give something to someone in need and catch the late flight to "Come ye blessed of my Father".

  10. The writer of the Lesson, in quoting Proverbs 15:3, also referenced 2 Chron 16:9 for our understanding of the motives of the watchful eyes of God:
    Pro 15:3 "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on those who are evil and those who are good." NET
    "The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good."
    2 Chron 16:9 "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." NIV

    God's motives are also expressed by Solomon the same passage - Proverbs 14:34 to 15:3:
    "Righteousness exalts a nation,but sin is a reproach to any people. 35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully. 15: 1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. 3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good."

    1. To strengthen the committed.
    2. Wrath on those who act shamefully.
    3. Guide the mouth of those who receive God's wisdom
    4. Expose the folly of the mouth of the wicked
    5. Protecting God's children from evil outside entities and inner tendency to folly
    6. Giving opportunity to those who are living in sin
    7. Manipulating the environment for the best outcome of love and salvation for all.
    And more.
    Thank our Father in Heaven for His watchful eyes, and His request in song that we allow our eyes to be trained by the Divine M.D. Eye Specialist to see ourselves and others as His eyes see. More importantly to see Him as much as our eyes can behold.


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