Elvis Presley had a song about it: people who say one thing or judge others about another, while they are doing the very things they speak against (or worse) when they think no one else is watching them.
Clean up your own backyardElvis Presley’s Clean Up Your Own Backyard
Oh don’t you hand me, don’t you hand me none of your lines
Clean up your own backyard
You tend to your business, I’ll tend to mine
Jesus had another way of saying the same thing. He encourages us to consider the moat in our own eyes before worrying about the speck in somebody else’s. Of one of the many lessons from our pandemic experiences, perhaps the most important comes from this concept. If we take care of the business in our own backyard as we ought, we won’t have time or energy to commit the sin of judging other people (God’s job) or sticking our nose in their business. And if we look more closely at ourselves, we’re bound to discover more empathy for others because we’ll see just how far from perfect we are ourselves.
Proverbs contains several verses with practical steps to take care of the business in our own backyard, God’s way. Chapter 3, verses 5-6 advise:
With all your heart, you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow.Contemporary English Version
So many people say God wants them to do such and such without seeing the fallacy of their thinking. They mistaken following the desires of their hearts for listening to God’s instructions. God will never tell us to do something that goes against His word. The truth of the matter is that none of us are trusting the LORD if we are relying on our understanding of HIM from our own feelings about God rather than knowing the WORD of God, which is how the LORD leads us to the ultimate truth.
How I wish we could know all there is to know about God merely by saying aloud something like, “I believe God exists and that He wants the best for me.” Too many people live this way, which is why you see them on television claiming to be Christian in one breath and saying something that goes against God’s Word in the next. (We all do this at some point and to some degree, which is why we need Jesus, our Savior, to attain salvation.)
Proverbs 16: 2-6 goes into more detail about the steps necessary to follow God’s will and not our own desires:
All the ways of a man are clean and innocent in his own eyes [and he may see nothing wrong with his actions], But the LORD weighs and examines the motives and intents [of the heart and knows the truth]. Commit your works to the LORD [submit and trust them to Him], And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance].
The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked [according to their role] for the day of evil. Everyone who is proud and arrogant in heart is disgusting and exceedingly offensive to the LORD; Be assured he will not go unpunished. By mercy and lovingkindness and truth [not superficial ritual], wickedness is cleansed from the heart,
And by the fear of the LORD one avoids evil.Amplified Version
These verses make several clear points about how to live by the code of taking care of our own business and leaving the business of others to God.
- Even though you may see nothing wrong with your actions, be aware that God knows you better even than you know yourself. How well do your actions hold up when you compare them to what the Bible tells you to do?
- Our actions are only going to succeed if we offer them to God, truly trusting Him to bring success to those actions. But this process only works if our plans line up with God’s will and guidance. How do we know God’s will or understand how He may guide us?
- We cannot truly know God’s will without having knowledge of God’s Word, where He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Bible is God talking to us through the centuries. It is a book meant to be understood in whole, not by piecemeal to twist things to our point of view.
- We cannot know how God may be guiding us without being in constant, real communication with Him. Prayer can happen anytime, anywhere. It can be a silent moment before you start the car, asking for safe journeys and open eyes to catch opportunities to do His will while you run your errands. It can be long meditation in a closed room, free from distractions, when you pour out all of you in the faithful confidence that God listens.
- The proud and arrogant of heart, those who choose to do what they want without any care as to what God’s will might be, are destined to punishment. Whenever we want to rush to judge somebody else, we need to remind ourselves that God clearly reserves the sole right to have this privilege. Our job is to take comfort in the knowledge that God punishes all evil eventually.
- Mercy, love to others, and truthfulness help us purge wickedness from our hearts. Fearing God means respecting what He says, reading His Word, doing His will, following His rules and approaching His throne in full-knowing of how much MORE He is than we can ever be. These steps, this kind of fear of God, helps us avoid evil, including the evil of looking over the picket fence and judging next door instead of taking care of the waist-high weeds in our own yard.
Elvis fans know he took the letters TCB (take care of business) as his personal motto, in part a reminder of these very truths. As a person always in the spotlight, he had more than his fair share of people looking over the fence to judge his business. By concentrating on his own business instead of what those people had to say, he helped keep his life focused on what mattered most to him.
As Christians, what matters most to us is our relationship with Christ. We want the angels to dance around His throne for us. Let’s focus on that goal. When we quit looking over the fence, I firmly believe we will love our neighborhoods again and keep God at the center of all our actions, just like He wants from us.
Visit RamonaLevacy.com to find out more about my novels.