In recent years a Christmas ritual called “Elf on the Shelf” has become something of a mania. Social media is saturated with photos about how this family or that family practices this tradition. Apparently many families take this very seriously. The ones who do are no doubt dismayed and annoyed at those who make fun of it. Pictures of elves having been eaten by the dog, or hung in effigy, or destroyed in some humorous way are about as common as the serious ones.
The purpose of the Elf on the Shelf, according to the 2005 book by the same name, is to remind children to behave so they will receive presents on Christmas Day. Apparently the elf reports to Santa on what everyone in the household is doing. Obedience is always an appropriate subject matter as we are raising our children, of course, and if an Elf on the Shelf helps with this, then perhaps it has some value. Some of us, however, were raised with a different motivational tool. It was called the Belt on the Shelf. Time will tell which approach is better.
When we think about being watched as we go about our daily business, the Elf on the Shelf is but a shadow of the truth on this subject. The scriptures teach us that we are indeed being watched each day in all that we do. The one watching, however, is not an elf, and is not limited to a specific location in one’s home or office. The one who is watching us is unlimited in scope and presence. In fact, He is everywhere present in space and time. He is God the Father, and the scriptures teach that He sees everything we do.
Two scriptures in particular testify to this truth. In Prov. 15:3 Solomon wrote, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” In Jer. 16:17 God Himself said, “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.”
The fact that God sees everything should certainly give us pause as we contemplate the actions we may take each day. However, there is more to this truth that must be considered. In 2 Chr. 16:9 the scripture says, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” In Psa. 33:18, 19 the scripture says, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine.” These statements assure us that God watches the righteous in order to provide for them and to protect them. He has a different perspective, however, on the unrighteous.
In Psa. 34:15, 16 the scripture says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” This same truth is repeated in Heb. 4:13, where the scripture says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” The implication of these statements is that God sees and takes note of wicked deeds in order to render His judgment against those who do them.
Some are offended by the idea of an eye in the sky watching their every move. However, the only ones who should be concerned about God’s watchful eye are those who disobey His will. If we obey the gospel and follow His word each day, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins (1 Jn. 1:7-9). For those whose sins have been forgiven, the eye in the sky is a blessing. For those whose sins have not been forgiven, the eye in the sky means the certainty of judgment, for God will not let the guilty go unpunished (Ex. 34:7).