During this generation surveillance of citizens has increased exponentially due to miniaturization of video cameras and the popularity of cell phone cameras.  There seem to be fewer and fewer places where one can expect privacy.  This phenomenon has both positive and negative aspects.  Nearly everyone wants a video record of criminals who break the rules of law whether it be driving recklessly or burglarizing our property.  However, most of us resent being followed and harassed by government, police or press.  There is a fine line between law enforcement agents installing cameras in private homes to surveil suspected drug dealers and doing it to innocent citizens for political blackmail.

Something similar occurs in one’s religious life.  Jesus said that, “there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” (Lk 12:2) In the same chapter He mentions God’s knowledge of sparrows and the number of hairs on our head. (vv 6,7) When the dead stand before God, the books will be opened and all will be judged according to their works. (Rev 20:12) In that great day of judgement Christ will list all our deeds—good and evil. (Mt 25:31-46)

The Scribes, Pharisees and Lawyers of Jesus’ time were constantly surveilling His life to try to trap Him in His speech. (Lk 11:53-54)  They even went so far as to bring false witnesses during His trial before the Jewish Council. (Mk 14:55-59) The elders of the church of Jesus are told to “watch over the souls of the flock and to give an account.” (Heb 13:17) This is not to spy on other Christians, but to care for their soul’s destination. (KJV, NAS)

As individuals there is usually not much we can do to prevent others from surveilling us. However, there is certainly much we should do to “watch over our life and doctrine.” (1 Tim 4:16) The whole New Testament stresses the urgency of watching out for our own soul and how to prepare it for judgement. (Lk 12:4-5) The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are there to guard, guide, direct and protect us like a shepherd does for his sheep. (Mt 9:36) (Jn 10:15) (1Pe 2:25) (Rom 5:5)  The rationale for spiritual surveillance is love, not control.

                                                                 –Jim Bailey