Last week, before our daughter and her husband left on a trip, I heard our son-in-law quietly review with our grand-daughter:
“What do I want you to do while we are away?” She didn’t answer right away so he gave her a hint. “Listen .. and…”
“…obey” came the two-year-old’s answer.
Her daddy knew life would be easier for her in the next few days (and for her grandparents, who would be watching her) if she would do that.
While working with GE Healthcare, I was part of a corporate culture shift to constant-compliance as a way of doing business. The gist of the rationale was this. If we know we’re operating within the bounds of the law (international law, Food and Drug Administration, GE corporate policy, etc.) we’re going to make good products with excellent processes and before long it will actually feel good. Inspections, scheduled or unannounced, large or small, will not be catastrophic near-misses, they’ll be relatively trauma-free.
Whether you’re a person, a family, a small business or a large corporation, there are several reasons to obey – to comply. Which of these motivates you to live obediently or in compliance?
1. Fear of penalty, punishment or harm. When we behave ourselves on whatever level primarily to stay out of trouble we may deliver the right behavior, but something’s always missing, isn’t there? It seems there’s more. Sometimes “more” is the alleged fun that would be had by breaking the law, even just once. So long as I don’t get caught.
2. A desire to be “blessed”. I’m in the Scriptures a lot so this example readily comes to mind. We want to be like the well-watered tree mentioned in Psalms 1.3. We like the thought of prospering, whatever it is we’re doing. It’s good to slow down enough to notice something here if this is how you’re thinking. Ask yourself “Am I living compliantly so God WILL bless me? or am I living compliantly so the the Lord CAN bless me – if He chooses to.” It’s a subtle but profound difference. This might be a good place for “Selah” –another biblical word– stop and consider.
3. A third reason for living in compliance is so our prayers will be effective. We’ve all been there, some of us repeatedly. Unanswered prayer elicits self-introspection and self-examination. “Is there a reason this hasn’t been answered yet?” The same question applies here: so He WILL? or so He CAN? I remember many times when I was growing up and asked Dad if I could do something or go somewhere. He’d answer my question with a question. “Have you finished …?” usually a task or chore I’d neglected or put-off. When I answered “No” his gentle answer was always the same. “Then I’m not ready for your question.” It seems to me Dad’s soft-spoken leading me toward compliance is something he learned from HIS heavenly Father.
4. The best reason for living obediently, so far as I’ve been able to discern so far, is as a result of love. I love __(fill in the blank)___ so I’ll learn what is liked and appreciated and do those things more. And I’ll learn what is disapproved or hated and do those things less or not at all. The result? Smother sailing for everybody. This works in marriage, in family, even in the workforce.
So let’s review – Which reason do you use for living in compliance?
Because you’re afraid of what might happen if you don’t or worse yet if you get caught? Because you want good things to happen? So your requests will be granted? Or because love is influencing your choices.
There are multiple venues to which your answer can be applied, so be sure to think through them all. And remember as you adjust your thinking, a change in motive may not change your behavior at all. You may already be living compliant, but you’ll certainly feel the difference and enjoy the new freedom. It’s worth the tune-up.