My Dog’s Trash Can Looting Helped Me Understand How God Responds to Sin

When Zoe, our miniature schnauzer, is bored, she goes into a bathroom and roots through the trash can.  Her favorite item to shred is the toilet paper someone used to blow their nose. She’ll also pull out napkins, chewed gum…basically whatever she thinks she can tear up.  We’ve learned to keep our bathroom doors closed since the bathroom trash cans are the ones she raids.

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Zoe on her first birthday – June 2018

Just the other day, I saw a piece of shredded napkin on the floor and started to get upset but stopped to ask myself – why?  Why would she nose through smelly, nasty trash when she could chew on any of the dog toys lying around on the floor?

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Does that look like the face of a dog that would do anything wrong?  Does it?

Why choose something trashy over something you were meant to have?

Then I realized God might ask himself this same question when His children choose sin over Him.

“My child,” He wonders, “why dig through the trash when I’ve set blessings in front of you?  Why work so hard to find something sinful to fill your time when you could sit quietly at my feet and be satisfied?”

I’ve noticed that Zoe is more likely to turn to trash can looting when no one is paying her any attention.  It’s like she can’t figure out what to do with herself, so she turns to the easiest thing: digging in garbage.

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Her favorite place to be – my lap 🙂

Isn’t that when sin creeps in on us, too?  When we think no one is looking? When we’re idle?  Bored? It’s much quicker and easier to turn to something sinful than to turn to something good…and I don’t even mean something extreme like turning on the computer to look at pornography…although that could be the case.

I’m talking about those things we default to when there’s a moment of idleness – scrolling Facebook or Instagram and comparing your body, house, spouse, car, job, clothes, children to what you see on your feed; jumping on Amazon and ordering the Deal of the Day just because it’s 30% off and you have Prime so shipping is free even though you know that purchase will put you over the budget you and your spouse agreed on at the beginning of the month; turning on the TV to watch that show you find so entertaining but is filling your heart and mind with thoughts that don’t glorify God.

Look, I’m talking to myself here.  I’ve turned to all these things and plenty others when I didn’t want to take the time to think of something wholesome to do.  When I just wanted to chill out. When I needed an activity that required no real thought or effort…just for a moment.

I promise.  I’ve been there, and I’m not preaching to you or fussing at you.

But, that little moment is when sin creeps in.  The jealousy. The lust. The anger. The gluttony.  The laziness.

And sin is what keeps us from God.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

I don’t want sin to keep me away from God.  I want to be able to go to Him clean. So, I have to repent.  That means that I am more than just sorry that I got caught; I am remorseful to the point of turning – away from that sin, away from that lifestyle, away from that way of thinking, away from whatever stands between God and me.  I turn from that, and I look to God.

Repentance was one of the first messages Jesus taught when he began his public ministry.  Both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels record Jesus as speaking about repentance right away. So it must be important.

That means I have to do it.

That means you have to do it.

Ask God to show your sin to you.  Ask Him to convict you. Then turn from that sin and go the other way…toward Him.

 

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from my Grandma

“The best thing you can do to someone who is being mean to you is to be as nice as you can to them.” I distinctly remember sitting on a stool at the counter in my grandma’s kitchen one afternoon after school when she said this to me.

Seventh grade was my first real encounter with girls being mean just for spite – saying snide things about my clothes or my hair or something like that. Undoubtedly, she and I were talking about this, and her advice was to be as kind as I could in return.

That sounds crazy, right?! It definitely isn’t worldly advice. Worldly wisdom says to be mean back to those girls. The world’s advice is to get even when someone does you wrong. But, grandma was saying to be nice!

She said, “being nice in return is your best choice because it is the opposite of what the person expects. That person expects you to cry, but you don’t cry, at least you don’t cry in front of her. If you’re nice, she doesn’t get the reaction she was looking for. There’s no drama. And a lot of the time, that person will eventually move on. It’s a really good way to handle a bully. And,” she added, “it’s what the Bible says to do, too.”

At some point in the conversation, I’m pretty sure I remember the phrase “heaping burning coals on their head.”  Grandma said that was the part from the Bible… So, if the Bible and Grandma said it, it was good enough for 13-year-old me.

In my lifetime, I have come to find that Grandma was right. The best thing to do is to be kind to people even when they aren’t kind to you. She was also right when she said that most of the time, your response would make them leave you alone…eventually.

But where did Grandma get this? She told me it was biblical?

As an adult who is concerned with living a godly life, I’ve looked into this further and found that it is indeed advice from the Bible. King Solomon, in all his God-given wisdom, wrote about it in Proverbs, and Paul echoed it in his letter to the Romans.

Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “if your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you. “

Um…what?

The English Standard Version Study Bible (ESV) explains these verses the best:

The image of the burning coals on your enemy’s head is “likely an image for leading him to repentance or shame, suggesting that he will feel inward burning pangs of guilt for his wrongdoing. In any case, the message is clearly to repay evil with good… The image of ‘burning coals’ does not imply something that harms the enemy because it further explains the bread and drink in Proverbs 25:21, which do him good, and also because Proverbs forbids taking personal vengeance… Finally, ‘the Lord will reward you’ implies a good result from ‘burning coals’ which is most consistent with leading a person to repentance.”

To understand how this works, jump ahead to Romans 12.  Verses 9-21 discuss Christian behavior and echo things many of us are used to hearing:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (verse 14)

“Live in harmony with one another” (verse 16)

“Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (verse 17)

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacefully with all” (verse 18)

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“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (verse 19)

Then, we get to verses 20 and 21:

“… if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he’s thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

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Photo Credit: sermonquotes.com

“There are those burning coals again,” you might think. “Heather, are you sure this is what it means to be nice to someone who has wronged me? Sounds like you’re just being mean right back. “

Well, in Romans 12:20 (above), Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22, but, you have to go back to Romans 12:9, earlier in the same section, to get some context and to properly seat the instructions of Romans 12:20 in the right frame for the Christian. Verse 9 says, “let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.”

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That explains the whole thing.

Being nice to someone who is mean to you isn’t some weird way to get revenge.  The important thing to ask yourself is, “how do I feel about this person in my heart when I am nice to her in return?” Literally, what is the condition of your heart? What is your motive?

The point – and this is the hard part, this is where prayer comes in – is that your love for that person has to be genuine. Verses 9-21 of Romans 12 are, according to the ESV, a “description of the life that is pleasing to God.”  And the section starts off with love.

When we are genuinely kind to the person who wronged us, our motivation is love. We don’t heap coals to hurt that person; we heap coals to help that person.

When we repay evil with good, we do so in hopes that our behavior will soften the heart of the wrongdoer. Our purpose is always to point people back to God, to show people His love.

The strangeness she feels when you repay her evil with good should start something in her heart. It should cause her to stop and question: “How can she be nice to me after how I spoke to her?”

God can use that to change a person’s hearts; all He needs is a little soft spot to take hold of.

Above all, we are called to love, genuinely.

This takes a lot of prayer… Prayer for God to show us how to live. Prayer for God to change our hearts. Prayer for God to show us how to love people like He loves them.  Prayer for God to help us love the unlovable.

This is how we live the life of a believer the way that God wants us to live. And it’s what Grandma was talking about all those years ago that afternoon in her kitchen.

 

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Grandma last year on her 90th birthday with Ethan and Emery.  We celebrated her 91st just a few weeks ago 🙂