The summer after my sophomore year of college I worked with my dad, who had just been tasked with starting up a new division for his company. Dad and a man named Richard were in charge and I worked as one of four underlings, accomplishing the tasks that could be done routinely. My three fellow underlings were all Hispanic women. Each day they would come in to the office and work, while speaking in Spanish. Mostly they talked about food and soap operas, but they would also talk about my dad and the other supervisor in less than flattering terms because they thought no one could understand them. But I'd had five years of Spanish and could understand most of what they said.
One day toward the end of the summer, I decided it was time to let them in on my Spanish speaking abilities. As one of them walked past my desk, I said under my breath but loud enough for her to hear, "Interesante." The girl had just passed my desk when she heard it and she stopped in her tracks. She turned around and approached me and asked, "You speak Spanish?"
I have a decent Spanish accent and I answered as casually and smoothly as possible, "Si, pero todavía no he dominado la lengua." ("Yes, but I haven't mastered the language yet.") Her eyes grew as big as melons and her face went white. Then she slowly turned and walked back to her two co-conspirators and they had a very hushed conference. After that, they seemed to restrict their talk to food and soap operas, mysteriously ending all talk about my dad.
The episode illustrates for me our very common tendency to get away with whatever we think we can rather than doing the right thing regardless. These girls thought that they could get away with bad-mouthing their boss right in front of him and all the other employees simply because he didn't speak their language and couldn’t' tell what they were doing. But we do the same thing all the time, trying to get away with things that we would never do if somebody was watching or could tell what we were doing or saying.
We waste time on our computers instead of working like we're being paid to. We sneak supplies home when no one is watching because no one will ever know they are gone. We watch things on cable or on the internet when we're alone that we would be ashamed to watch if someone were in the room with us. We leave a few minutes early when the boss is gone but stay until closing time when the boss is with us.
Paul addressed this tendency in Colossians 3:22-23, "obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (NIV).
What kinds of things are you trying to get away with when no one is watching? Whether at work or at home, let's do everything as if we were doing it for the Lord. After all, when no one else is watching, God still sees us and God is the one we should be trying to please.