George Bowers Sr.: Is there an elf on your shelf?
One of the more popular children’s gifts in the last few years has been the Elf on the Shelf. This money maker involves a storybook and doll combo that has recently expanded to include additional accessories that mines even deeper into our wallets. In addition to the Christmas version, birthday variations of the nosey gnome are also now available.
The premise of the story is the line from the old Christmas song that Santa “knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” These spying elves supposedly assist him by gathering intel in the months leading up to Christmas. This threat has motivated many children to be on their best behaviors, at least for a few fall months. After the big day, however, the pressure is off for a while and they can return to their natural tendencies until Christmas again draws near the next year.
The concept of a constant watchman is not new, however, and is rooted in God’s word. In the early chapters of Genesis, pregnant Hagar had been unjustly kicked out by her mistress, Sarai, for obeying, and she fled into the wilderness. As she sat by a spring dejected and hopeless, God called out to her and gave her several hope-filled promises concerning the baby within her womb. In response, Hagar gave God the name El Roi, meaning “the all-powerful God who sees.”
An almost identical Hebrew word is used for birds of prey because of their excellent eyesight. A hawk’s eyes can resolve at great distances and these birds have the best vison in the animal kingdom. When one is perched in a tree, nothing happens in any corner of the field around it without the hawk’s knowledge. Even the smallest mouse will be detected and observed.
When I was a child, my dad constantly reminded me that someone was always watching. Before surveillance cameras and bugged conversations, he was wise to know that even when we think no one is looking, other people are nearly always observing us.
Beyond that, even if no other human ever knows what we do or say, God does, for Hebrews 4:11 tells us that, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight! Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” He sees the whole field of this Earth and all the injustices done to us and by us. When Hagar felt that no one cared or even knew about her undeserved suffering, she was thankful for a God who saw it all and who would eventually make it all right.
Being watched by God can either be a fearful dread or a happy comfort. If we are obediently living in his mercy and grace, his unceasing watchfulness can be a real encouragement. As it was for Hagar, this knowledge is a reminder that he is aware of all the injustices and misfortunes of our lives, even if no one else ever sees or knows of them.
If, however, we are living in rebellion, intent on ignoring God’s love and God’s ways, his complete knowledge of all our actions will be a perpetual reminder of our impending accountability. We may try to escape his gaze but we do so in vain.
The more we get to know him, the more we realize that God is not watching so he can crush us at every failure or withhold his gifts, but like Hagar, so that he can bless and help us. Ultimately, he is not keeping a naughty and nice list or we’d all stay on the former. Instead he watches over us to protect and instruct us. He endeavors to draw us to himself where we can find forgiveness, life, joy, peace, and blessing all of which he wants us to have. When we receive the grace Jesus came to provide, we can live in obedience and enjoy the glory of his care, never fearinghis harsh judgment.
While the Elf on the Shelf may be Santa’s eyes and ears, God himself sees and knows all. Let us live daily to put a smile on his face and rest secure in his all-seeing eyes.
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored seven books in addition to contributing to “The Wonders of Nature 365 Devotions Celebrating God’s Beauty” by Worthy Inspired. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.