When Doing the Right Thing Sucks

I was jilted at the Goodwill counter. I had in my hands a beautiful mid-century modern side table, teak wood, all original, and the girl in line ahead of me was going to buy it. “Well this is awkward,” she said to me as I stopped behind her, “I’m in line to buy that.” We locked eyes. I had seen her before. She was the same girl who was looking over my shoulder as I was inspecting the table. She must have bolted to the front to try and beat me to the purchase. I looked down at the table and back at her, up at the employee at the register who clearly did not want to get involved in the event that was transpiring. I knew I had to give it up.

But I didn’t want to. I wanted to make a scene. Claim that since I had the table in my hands I was the rightful owner. But I set it on the floor, quietly told her she could have it, and left. I got in my car and I started crying. Yeah, I cried over a side table–a beautiful teak side table from what I consider to be the best time period for modern design, all for 20 bucks, which is a steal, good luck finding them for under $200 anywhere else! And the Holy Spirit asked me to give it away, and I felt crummy about it.

They say that doing the right thing is always the hardest. You want to know why? Whenever you act in obedience, you’re dying to yourself. You’re choosing to put to death your flesh. My flesh wanted to be selfish. My flesh wanted to be frugal. My flesh wanted that girl to feel guilty every time she looked at that side table. Some Christian I am.

The book of Colossians talks about putting to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. We’re warned not to worship the things of this world. We no longer have room for jealousy, greed, anger, malicious behavior, stealing side tables from perfectly nice strangers in Goodwill, because our lives are no longer part of this world. We need to put on our new nature, and be renewed as we continually learn to know our Creator and become like him. Setting down that table and walking away without argument killed me.

I realize that we’re talking about a side table here, but the Theological connections are so great. It’s so much more. Jesus warns us about storing up earthly treasures. That side table is a part of this world. I can’t take it into Heaven. I’ll have no need for it there. The author of Hebrews says not to love money, to be satisfied with what you have. For God will never fail you, and He’ll never abandon you. That side table will eventually fail me. One day it’s going to fall apart, even though it was perfectly crafted and already 50 years old and still going strong. Instead, Jesus urges us to store up treasure in Heaven. The author of Hebrews urges us to trust in God. All of it takes being sensitive and open to the promptings of the Spirit.

Doing what the Spirit asks, doing what God wants, doesn’t always feel great. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it leaves you feeling crummy and upset. But doing good things, living in obedience, isn’t meant to make you feel better. That’s not the point. It may be a byproduct, sure. If feeling good about ourselves and the choices we make is our driving force for living in obedience, we’ve missed the point, and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross becomes moot.

Saying no and turning from the things of this world isn’t easy. There was never a guarantee that this life was going to be easy. Jesus’ life is an example of that. But the things we say ‘no’ to God about act as a barometer for what’s truly inside of our hearts. We can either be obedient or not .  There’s no middle ground. No, Just let me have the side table and I’ll give it up next time. Chances are, there will be a next time, and chances are you won’t take the opportunity even when it’s presented to you again and again. So give up the side table now, or whatever it is you’re hanging onto so tightly. It will never truly belong to you anyway.

And to the girl from Goodwill, I hope that side table makes you happy. I’ve realized I don’t need it after all.

Scripture to meditate on: Colossians 3:5-10, Matthew 6:19-21, Hebrews 13:5

Thoughts, questions, concerns? Tell me what you think! Let’s discuss! Leave a comment below. Get a little heated. Agree. Disagree. Throw your opinion out there. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m right. It doesn’t really matter, it’s my opinion anyway. I’m just glad you decided to join the conversation.