Questions are not always asked for information, sometimes they are asked to stimulate thought, to cause one to reevaluate self, or something done, or about to be done. Such is the title question. In service to God, does the environment in which you live control your faithfulness to God? Some have suggested that they would be more faithful if they lived under a better environment. But, is this so? Do the things around you control your life, or do you take control of the things around you. In other words, what causes you to do the things you do. Think with me.
Does a good environment control one’s behavior? Most people agree the prodigal son of Lk.15 had what many consider a good environment. He was living in a good home and the best of circumstances. He had a loving father, money and servants. Yet, this “good home” did not keep him faithful and away from sin Lk.15:11-13.
What about riches? If you had more of this world’s good, would you be more faithful? One of the most materially blessed men in the OT was King Solomon. He had great wisdom, immense power and enormous riches. He took in 666 talents of gold in tribute each year (today’s monetary standards over 3 billion dollars) 1.Kgs.10:14. But all of the things he possessed did not make him faithful to God 1.Kgs.11:4-10.
Some long for the Garden of Eden? What better situation could one hope to live under? Surely, such a perfect place with the presence of God, the tree of life and every necessity provided for, that should serve to keep one faithful. Yet, this beautiful Garden did not prevent man and woman from becoming unfaithful to God.
Maybe the environment of heaven and the presence of God might be the place that would keep one faithful. Yet in spite of such an environment we learn there were angels who sinned and were cast out of heaven as a result 2.Pet.2:4; Jude 6.
What do we learn from these examples? We learn that a “good environment” is not the solution to keeping one faithful to God. Under the best of circumstances, both men and angels sinned. The best of surroundings is no guarantee of faithfulness. When one feels these things are not satisfying, one allows temptation and sin to control their situations in life and they choose to become unfaithful. Now, notice the other side.
Does a bad environment cause one to be unfaithful? Just as a good environment does not guarantee faithfulness we can also learn that bad circumstances do not cause one to be unfaithful and sin against God. Adverse conditions may influence a person, but they cannot control a person’s behavior. The Bible gives examples of some who under the worst of situations remained faithful to God.
Would slavery cause one to be unfaithful? Joseph, living as his father’s favorite son had his life suddenly turned upside down at the age of 17 when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery Gen.37:18-28. In the years that followed, he faced tremendous burdens and temptations. He was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison for 7 years Gen.39:11-20. Yet under all these circumstances he remained faithful to God. He controlled the environment under which he lived. He was in control of his actions during the various situations he faced, rather than letting them control him.
Maybe the loss of everything would cause unfaithfulness. But a study of Job shows this doesn’t have to be the case. Job had everything one might desire, a big family, wealth, fame, wisdom and good health. But he suddenly lost everything including his health Job 1 and 2. Yet Job did not sin in this, lose faith or blame God. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” Job 1:21-22; 2:10.
Suppose you are persecuted? Wouldn’t that excuse you from being faithful? No! One can still be faithful in spite of such suffering. The apostle Paul is a monument to us that beatings, stonings and false imprisonment are not enough to cause one to lose faith Acts 14:19; 2.Cor.11:23-33. Living under such circumstances did not cause Paul to sin and lose faith 2.Tim.2:12; 3:12. Paul could not control his circumstances, but he could control himself and how he acted during such trying times Phil.4:11-13; 2.Tim.1:12.
No, bad circumstances do not cause one to sin. Neither do good circumstances keep one from sinning. Don’t use a good or bad environment as an excuse to sin against God and be unfaithful to Him. The above examples show us that something else is involved.
What makes the difference? It is not the situation in which one lives that produces faithfulness of unfaithfulness. Rather, it is the attitude of heart. The controlling factor in both types of situations is not the outward circumstances but the inward state of heart. Unfaithfulness is caused by rebellion. Those who are defiant and rebellious against God will sin, regardless of the environment. The Jews are good examples. They were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament days, yet they refused to be faithful to God. Jeremiah wrote “But this people have a defiant and rebellious heart. They have revolted and departed” Jer.5:32.
On the other hand those who trust in God will rise above any situation in which they find themselves, and be obedient to Him in spite of circumstances Rom.6:17; Dan.3:17-18. They will be steadfast in resolve and not let circumstances control their behavior. They put their trust in God completely, fully confident He will stand with His people and do just as He promises. They then, are able to say “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” Rom.8:31, 37. Read Prov.3:5, 6; Heb.13:5-6. Choose to be in control of yourself, don’t let others, or things control you.