Compartmentalization. Most of us do it to some extent, but when it comes to our spiritual life, compartmentalization can be quite disastrous. In a chapel message this spring, Dr. Phil Speas presented the following message about the dangers of compartmentalization.
The Problem of Compartmentalization
In my lifetime I have seen a new and scary phenomena emerge that’s going to send millions of professed Christians to hell. It’s called compartmentalization. Compartmentalization teaches that it’s okay to embody, endorse, and practice very incongruent values and ethics. I can claim to be a very righteous person and yet have a dominant dark side to my life. I can be a preacher and stand in the Pulpit on Sunday denouncing sin and yet look at pornography on my computer during the week.
I can claim to be good in public maintaining a respectable image and yet indulge in deviant behavior in private. It is my public persona and image that counts. Today it’s all about image. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s your image. I’ll tell you what; God’s looking deeper than the image. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. The sins of my private life are my own personal privilege and nobody’s business. According to compartmentalization, my life is like a house with many rooms. There are public rooms and there are private rooms. As long as my public rooms look good, I’m fine. It doesn’t matter what going on in the attic, the basement, or the closet. I am a good person as long as the majority of things that I do are good. In your house you have the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. Perhaps you have the bedrooms upstairs with some closets and some storage space up in the attic. Of course, there’s the basement. People don’t go down there.
This might work compartment. I’m a nice guy at work. Here’s my family compartment. I’m a good family man. Here’s my church compartment. I go to church; I put money in offering plate. When they sing songs, I raise my hands. When everybody claps, I clap my hands. I’m a nice guy. And then here’s my recreation compartment. That’s what I do for fun. And over here is my tax compartment, how I fill out my taxes. Now, I may do a little cheating on my taxes, but everybody else does. That’s okay. And then here is my speech compartment. There are some things I say that may not be so good. Here’s my thought compartment. I may think about things that I shouldn’t think about. And then here’s my internet compartment. What I do on the internet is my business and nobody else’s business.
The Cultural Acceptance of Compartmentalization
Compartmentalization is widely accepted and practiced. The widespread acceptance and practice of this really hit me one day when you were just wearing diapers. Some of you students may not even have been wearing diapers yet. This may seem like ancient history to you, but I can’t help that you chronologically challenged. 🙂
Have you ever heard of the name Bill Clinton? Once Bill Clinton began to surface in public, there are all kinds of stories and rumors flying around that he was a womanizer and he was dishonest, but people said, “You know, people just don’t like him. They’re just trying to smear him.” Well, he became elected as president, and he had an affair with an intern in the White House. They had oral sex together. They found some of his semen and did some testing. They said, “Yep, buddy, this belongs to you.” Bill Clinton tried to deny it. He tried to discredit those who were accusing him. I mean he did everything he could to get out of it and discredit the accusation.
What shocked me was a major big-name news anchor said this at the time, “I believe that President Clinton is basically an honest man. He just lies sometimes.” Wow! Incredible! I always thought that people who lie are liars, but I learned differently. He’s an honest liar. He’s good at, no doubt. Practice makes perfect.
Compartmentalization is Not Accepted by God
Although this is accepted in our culture today, it’s not accepted by God. Compartmentalization says that he was an honest person with some lapses. This terrible plague has become so widespread that half of ministers in America are caught up in it. One-half admit to looking at pornographic stuff on their computer devices. Buy title and profession they are men of God who publicly stand for truth and righteousness but in private they lust and commit adultery. Is it any wonder that religion in America is so weak and powerless? It doesn’t even help the doctor.
Compartmentalization in the Church
My step-brother told me about a group of men from a holiness church, a large holiness church – I’ve been there – who went to a Christian Conference. Yay, yay, yay! On the way home, some of them wanted to stop and eat at Hooters. Yeah, you heard me right. What a spiritual disconnect! Years ago there was an impressive Christian men’s movement called Promise Keepers. The emphasis of this movement (and there were millions of men involved in it) was on being men of faith and integrity. I went to a Promise Keepers meeting in Indianapolis in the Hoosier Dome. I think it was in 1994. Now that’s before your time for some you. They said there were about 60,000 men present. It was an impressive group. They were singing Christian songs. They were listening to powerful sermons. A lot of the song were talking about personal holiness. The sermons were powerful. I was impressed. I later learned (I don’t know that it was at that one, but at one of the big Promise Keepers meetings) the motels and the hotels in the area racked up record sales of pornographic movies by the Promise Keepers attendees – sickening. Singing songs and hearing sermons about integrity during the day and watching porn movies at night. Compartmentalization has become an epidemic in the church. It must make God sick.
The Account of Achan’s Compartmentalization
Let’s look at a situation in the Old Testament found in Joshua chapter 7. Verse one and then jumping down to verses 16-26.
The Backstory: Entering the Promised Land
The children of Israel had entered the Promised Land. They had crossed the Jordan River. God had performed a miracle parting the waters. They walked over on dry land, and this was during flood season when the Jordan River was at its biggest. They came into the Promised Land. The first city that they had to encounter was Jericho. It was a walled city, an impressive City, and God said that we’re going to have a special strategy for this city. You’re going to walk around it seven days and on the seventh day you will walk around it seven times, and then you’ll let out a shout and blow the horns, and I’m going to do something. God did and the walls fell down. It was a great victory. Then they were to go up and attack the city with one special set of instructions: they were not to touch the spoils of war. The valuables were to be consecrated to the Lord. And so they did. And what a victory! Israel was on a roll. Everything seemed to be going perfectly. All was in order. It must have been an exciting time for the children of Israel. They’ve been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. They’ve been delivered from slavery. Now they were marching into the Promised Land, and God had given them an incredible victory.
They were living in tents. They had all their tents nicely pitched. Perhaps some big tents, little tents, medium sized tents. What impressive sight. Here where all the children of Israel gathered in one encampment. There must have been a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. Well, the next city they were to take was Ai. And they said, well that one is little. We don’t need to take the whole army up there just three thousand men will handle those boys easily.
Achan’s Sin (Joshua 7)
Now let’s read our scripture. Chapter 7 verse 1, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”
And jumping down to verse 16, “So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.”
The Defeat at Ai (Joshua 7)
Things were going well for the children of Israel until they came to Ai. But there had been one problem. There was one guy who had some stuff buried beneath the tent. He had done a little bit of compartmentalization.
“And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.”
Things May Look Good on the Surface …
I want to note that everything looked good on the surface. As I said, Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan, parted the floodwaters. What impressive sight. They marched around Jericho seven days. On the 7th day, the walls fell down. What a great victory! The special instructions, “Don’t Take the spoils of war. There are to be consecrated to the Lord.” But, one man sinned, and one man caused a lot of trouble.
Well, they didn’t know anything about this until they went to attack Ai. That little handful of people in Ai came out and mopped them up, killed 36 Israelites, and chased them for miles. They came back to Joshua whipped, beaten, discourage, and demoralized. Wow. What a gone wrong!? Joshua had been feeling good. He was a successful general. All had seemed to be going well, but there was a hidden problem. One of his respected and good soldiers tried to compartmentalize. Achan had buried this forbidden stuff under his tent. Nobody knew it. The only way they found it out … I mean they couldn’t say well now you know there’s this guy that is suspicious-looking, you had better check out Achan … no, they didn’t have a clue. Everything looked good. The only way they found out who it was, was that they cast lots. The lot fell on him and they said, “Whoa, Whoa! What’s going on bud?” Then he ‘fessed up. Nobody knew it. Perhaps his family didn’t even know it. It was Achan’s dirty little secret. There was just one problem. … God knew it.
God Sees Every Compartment
Secondly, I want us to note that God saw in all the compartments. God saw what was buried under Achan’s tent. Everything was exposed under the all-seeing eye of God. Achan had done a good job of hiding his sin from men but hadn’t done so well hiding it from God. He discovered too late that is impossible to hide anything from God.
In this past election, we learned some interesting lessons. One of the things we found out was that emails made in secret can be read by hackers halfway around the world. If hackers can uncover our deep, dark secrets halfway around the world, how much more can the all-powerful, all-seeing eye of God see everything that’s going on?
He sees every time we purposely look at a pornographic picture. He knows every time we pick up food from the Senior snack table and don’t pay for. “Well, it’s just a little thing.” He sees any bitterness in our heart. He sees every grudge we hold: nothing is hidden.
God Requires Righteousness in All Compartments
The third point, God requires righteousness in all compartments. Now the world says, “If you’re mostly good, that’s good enough. You’re an honest person if you tell truths more often than you tell lies.” How do know if it’s going to be a lie or a truth? Achan was mostly a good man. There was nothing wrong in his public life. That wasn’t good enough. He has a secret compartment full of sin. God wants righteousness in all compartments. Matthew 5:8 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Blessed are those who are righteous down to the very core in the most hidden recesses of our being. Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord, and who will be qualified to stand in his holy place?” The answer: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Now, you can see my heart; I can’t see your heart. That’s pretty hidden. That’s very private. But God says, “I want you to be clean and pure and good in the most inner part of you” – the part that nobody else can see. First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Not h-o-l-y, but w-h-o-l-l-y through and through. “And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s prayer was that God would make them clean and holy in every compartment, every closet, in the attic, in the basement. Good religion cleans up all the compartments. Every Christian should want to be clean in all the compartments. Over and over again in the New Testament, it says that the early believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was everywhere. He was in the basement; he was in the attic; he was in the closet. We heard the story last week about the flood and how it washed away the early bible college campus. The water came up, and it filled the place. It got everywhere. When the Holy Spirit comes in, He wants to get everywhere. Everywhere. Not just in the public areas, but in the private areas.
God Judges Compartmentalization
The fourth point, God severely judged Achan for his compartmentalization. Achan died for his sin. He was stoned and burnt with fire that day. Now, the world thinks compartmentalization is okay but not God. Ananias and Sapphira found in the New Testament that God judges compartmentalization.
Ananias and Sapphira were mostly good people. After all, they were believers in Christ, and it wasn’t popular to be a believer back then. They paid a price to be a Christians. And there was a spirit generosity spreading across the church, and they got caught up in this thing. They thought, “We too need to be generous.” They thought, “Hey, you know we’ve got this property, and we could do without it. Why don’t we sell the property and make a wonderful donation.” Now, I don’t know what the property was worth. Let’s say there’s a house on that property. Say it sold for what would be equivalent of $100,000 today. Let’s say they gave half of it to the church. They had to give quite a bit or it would have looked kind of fraudulent. If they would have said, “Hey, we sold this property, and we’re going to give you all of it. Look here, we sold it for one dollar. Peter might have said this sounds a little fishy. No, it was a big chunk of money. If someone came to me and said brother Speas, we understand that you’re raising money for the phonathon. We are going to sell a property and we’re going to give it to you and we’re going to give you $50,000 for the phonathon. Whoa! Man, would Mr. Boleratz be excited! Would I be excited! Whoa! They were mostly good people … but … but … they just had a little problem. They lied. Everything on the surface looked good, but they lied. And nobody knew except the Holy Ghost who revealed it to Peter. He said, “Why have you lied to the Holy Ghost?” and boom! They went down. They died before the Lord.
Compartmentalization Doesn’t Just Affect Me
God doesn’t like compartmentalization in the Old Testament, and He doesn’t like it in the New Testament. Well, not only did Achan die for his compartmentalization, but Achan’s family and animals died. They all died that day. Compartmentalization doesn’t just affect us. It affects our family and the folks around us. It ruins our influence for good. Well, not only did Achan suffer, not only did his family suffer but the nation of Israel was defeated. Thirty-six Israelite soldiers died unnecessarily when taking the little village of Ai because Achan had sinned. Wives were made widows because of Achan’s sin. Children were made orphans because of Achan’s sin.
Compartmentalization Hinders our Ministry
If we tolerate compartmentalization, if we have hidden sin in our lives, our ministry and our church will suffer greatly. It will lose its anointing. We will go through the motion of serving the Lord but will have no power anointing. The preacher who looked at pornography during the week will have no anointing as he gets up in the pulpit on Sunday. The church will be weak. Many hungry souls who would have been saved under anointed preaching will be lost because of the powerless ministry of preachers with hidden sin in their lives.
Compartmentalization Can Happen Anywhere
You say, “Well, yeah, that’s terrible.” Folks, it can happen here. It can happen in a holiness Bible college. I’ve seen it happen. A number of years ago, we had a young lady in school here. She graduated from Mount Carmel. She was very talented. She had music ability. She had a nice personality. So, we put her in a singing group, one of our trios. She was kind of a spark plug. Man, could she ever testify. She could give the sweetest testimony. It was touching, and people remarked about how sweet her testimonies were. Well, everything looks good on the surface, but she was sinning in private. She was involved in an immoral practice with a young man here on campus. Of course, they weren’t doing in public, so we didn’t know about though we did finally catch on. I don’t think we knew the full extent of it. We just knew some inappropriate things we’re going on. They were counseled, warned, and prayed with. I’m sure that she prayed a sweet prayer that sounded like it had all the right words. The outside look good, but the sin still kept on. When we found and understood the full extent, we said that we have to suspend you from school. So, we did. She had a child out of wedlock. … I think she was working in a strip bar … a few years later, a cold body was found in her apartment from a drug overdose – someone who went to school here … someone who was elevated as being a part of one of our singing groups. They practiced compartmentalization. Good, on the surface, testifying beautifully, saying all the right things, but living a duplistic life.
Compartmentalization is Easy with the Privacy of the Internet.
Now, I believe one of the reasons compartmentalization is so prevalent is that through modern, electronic media and devices, I may sin in private, and no one sees. In the good ole’ days if a person wanted to look at porn, one had to must up the courage to go to a sleazy store, and you had to pick up that sleazy magazine. You had to take that sleazy magazine to the counter and pay for it. The person who checked you out knew what you were doing. The people who say you go in the store knew what you were doing. The people in the store knew what you were doing. But now, we can do it in private. And no one knows what we’re doing, and we can even erase all that stuff. Lose 35,000 emails – just like that. Nobody knows … except God.
Compartmentalization Defined & Illustrated
What is compartmentalization? It’s an effort to soothe my conscience. “I’m not really a bad person I’m mostly good. That bad part isn’t the real me.” It’s a mind game that I play with myself to feel better about myself when I’m being naughty. Compartmentalization is not a new thing. There’s a group in Jesus’ day that he had problems with. They were called Pharisees. These Pharisees looked really, really, really good on the outside, but they had some really, really, really bad stuff on the inside. In fact, Jesus said that you are like whited sepulchers. Now we paint these grays to white, making them look real pretty. He said that on the outside, you are indeed beautiful, but on the inside, you are full of corruption and rottenness and dead men’s bones. He said that you are two people. There is the public person that stands on the street corner and prays loud and pious prayers, saying, “I thank thee, oh God, that I fast twice a week. I give alms and tithes of all that I possess. I do all these wonderful things, and I look really good. My image and my public persona are spotless.”
But Jesus said that there is a compartment on the inside that other folks don’t see. It’s quite the opposite. And Jesus hated that kind of stuff. It’s so easy to sin in private because nobody’s asking us the hard questions.
How to Overcome Compartmentalization
This was one of the secrets early Methodists. To be a Methodist in those days, you had to be a part of a class meeting, and in the class meeting once a week you were asked the hard questions: Have you sinned this week? Have you been tempted? How did you overcome your sin? How did you overcome your temptation? The early Methodists found a way to root out compartmentalization. They found a way to help the Christians be clean and authentic, people of integrity.
Now, if we want to get help, we need to be totally honest. No excuses. Excuses are a way to make me look better than I really am. Forget the excuse – just called like it is. It’s sin. It’s hypocrisy. Be totally honest. Call compartmentalization a mind game where the only person is being fooled is me and maybe some other naive people. Confess your sins to someone else.
You see the thing about compartmentalization is that I can do everything in secret, and so there’s no accountability. I keep on sinning and sinning and sinning and nobody knows. Build some fences around your weakness. If you have a problem with pornography, believe you me; build some tall fences around yourself. Make it hard for the devil to tempt you. Some of us make it so easy for the devil to tempt us.
I heard a story about a boy who was sent by his mom to go to the neighbor’s place to get something. He had to go past the kid’s favorite swimming hole. She said, “Now don’t you go swimming! You understand?” … He comes back, and he’s got a wet towel with him. She said, “You went swimming, didn’t you!?” “Yeah.” That towel tells a story. She said, “How did you happen to have a towel with you?” The boy said, “Well, I took it along just in case I got tempted.” Now that’s about as silly as some of us are. We make it easy for the devil to tempt us. Make it hard for the devil to tempt us! Get serious about it!
Become accountable. Get someone that you trust, someone who loves you, someone who’s got some guts, and someone that you’re a little bit afraid of to ask you the hard questions. Get serious about victory: your eternal destiny is at stake, your ministry is at state, and your influence is at stake.
I would encourage all of us to have someone that we’re accountable to. We have got to take out this secrecy business! Man, as long as we have our secret compartments – even if we’re doing what’s right we’re very vulnerable to temptation. I would encourage you to become a part of an accountability group. In fact, we’re going to start our accountability groups here on campus this week. If you’re not, we’re not going to make you. If you’re not in an accountability group and you’re having some problems with some compartments, believe you me, it would be mighty good for you to build a fence around yourself.
Get a Plan
What we don’t want, that breaks our heart, is that if people end up like this story I told about this young lady who had a beautiful voice, a wonderful testimony but lived a double life. We’re not going to give an altar call, but here’s the thing: if you have a problem, maybe you’ve got bitterness – maybe it’s not pornography. There are other issues. If you’ve got problems and some compartments that don’t please God, if you feel convicted and you want to do something about it, I encourage you to come up with a plan of action. To fail to plan is to plan to fail. You’ve got to have a plan. Believe you me, the devil has a plan. You had better have a plan. You need to talk to Jesus about this plan and say, “Jesus, what can we do so that we can live victoriously?” Come up with a plan and then put it into action and be dead serious about it. I’m sure that Achan wished he had been.
I’m going to say a prayer. I’m going to have us close our eyes. If the Lord has spoken to you and he has challenged you, you’ve got something to do with – I don’t know what it is – if you’re willing to take action, you’re going to come up with a plan, you’re going to call it like it is, quit making excuses, and you’re going to be honest, and you want to get accountable with someone – if that’s your intention, with your heads bowed and your eyes closed, just raise your hand.
This is a testimony to God … several hands … Lord, you see these hands that have been raised. We pray that you will help them as they get before you and say, ‘Lord, we want victory.’ We pray that you will lay it out before them. Maybe they need some counsel. Maybe they need to go to someone and say, ‘Hey, could you give me some advice.’ Lord, we pray that you would give us victory in the inner recess of our hearts – those secret places – which nobody sees except You. Lord, how wonderful it is to have clean hands and a pure heart. How wonderful it is to have your smile of approval upon us. We don’t have to play mind games. Because we are clean and whole before we and we have allowed you to sanctify us w-h-o-l-l-y – every compartment – it’s filled with God, and there is not little dark secrets to hide. Give us victory, we pray. Amen.