Question:

Hello,

I have a question. Is not wanting to be embarrassed a sin? Or fearing what people would think of you a sin?

I really think I had some form of OCD years back that I am now trying to fully rid out of my life. I had this habit of picking up trash from the ground wherever I went (though I didn't always do it, but felt compelled to pick it up as I thought God wanted me to), and if I didn't, I would feel guilty about it and feel like I sinned. I understand that God speaks to us through His word, the Bible, and not to us directly, as we can't "feel" God or sense He wants us to do this or do that (is that correct?), so I cannot trust my feelings to tell me what's right and what's wrong. Though I am a lot better with the whole not picking up the trash thing, I still struggle.

For example, I was in the grocery store tonight and before I walked out I saw what looked like a receipt or something on the floor in my path. I quickly said in my my mind "NO!", as in no, your not going to pick that up. Now, if I was in a more private setting, like the public bathroom or something, and no one was looking, I may have picked it up and threw it in the trash. But because it was more out in the open, I was ashamed and embarrassed of what people might think of me had I picked it up and threw it away. Some may have thought, "Wow, that girl is kind of weird", (which is what I want to avoid), some may have saw it as a good deed, some may have thought I was gross for picking up trash, some may have not cared or maybe no one would have even paid attention to the whole ordeal, I don't know. My problem is that I'm debating in my head if I have sinned in some way. I really do not believe it's a sin not to pick up trash from the floor. I don't work there, it's not my job. I'm not obligated to do that. But is my reasoning behind not wanting to pick it up a sin? The not wanting to be embarrassed or look awkward and different? Is fearing what people think a sin? Is this a James 4:17 type of sin? (knowing to do right, but not doing it). If the not wanting to be embarrassed part is sinful, how do I repent?

I would so appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Thanks so much!

God bless,


Answer:

Feelings are what results from the things we do. But too many people put feelings in the driver seat. They decide what is right or wrong based on how they feel at the moment. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26). Feelings are not always right. They are not constant and, thus, cannot serve as a moral guide. Instead, God tells us to guide our actions by wisdom. Wisdom is what come from God and is taught in His Word. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil" (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Therefore, we don't decide what we must do based on how we feel. We look at a situation and determine what is the right thing to do, and then do it. The courageous as not those who never fear. They are the people who act despite their fears.

So, it picking up trash right or wrong? I'm not talking about a compulsion to clean up. It isn't a question of who is responsible. The simple question is: Is the action right or wrong? I see it as a act of kindness. Saving someone effort that you don't even know. "And be kind to one another" (Ephesians 4:25). You are leaving the world in a little bit better shape as you pass through.

But if you are looking at it that you have to pick up trash and that if you don't God is going to condemn you for it; well, you missed the point. Then it no longer is an act of kindness freely given but an obligation that is being forced.

The views of other people have no factor in determining right and wrong. How other people see you doesn't matter because they aren't the judge. "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10). You only look at your actions and your motivations against the standard that God has set.

Thank you for your response. I appreciate the time and effort you put into writing back. It is greatly appreciated! I know now that I should look at things differently. I can be kind and do others a favor. I shouldn't worry about what others think. I have a habit of letting my feelings direct my actions, and will usually think something is wrong because I fear it might be wrong, not because I confidently believe it to be wrong. There's a lot of "just in case" swirling around in my head. It's difficult because after a while I start to think that everything I do (and nearly half the stuff I think about) is wrong and sinful. I realize I have a bunch of "scruples" (which I don't want to have!), and the Lord has been upholding me all this time. I've been praying for a sound mind. That's what I really want: peace.