It all began in 1811, during the Administration of James Madison when an anonymous donor who said he had defrauded the government and sent the Treasury Department $5.00.
Today, it’s known as Conscience Fund, a place where people with gnawing guilt can make restitution to the United States government for their sins.
In the past 210 years, the Treasury Department has received almost $7 million. Some send letters of explanation. Others don’t
“Please accept this money for two postal stamps I re-used,” wrote one person.
Another individual confessed, “About eight years ago I took from a railroad station an item worth about $25 and this has been on my conscience since, so I’m enclosing $50 to clear my conscience.”
“I am sending $10 for the blankets I stole while in World War II. My mind could not rest. I want to be ready to meet God.” It was signed, “an ex-G.I.”
Then one donor whose motives were suspect wrote, “Dear Internal Revenue Service, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year’s income tax. Enclosed find a cashier’s check for $1,000. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance.”
Our conscience can convict us of wrong doing and leave us with feelings of guilt, remorse, and shame. Many people follow the theology expressed from this famous exchange in Pinocchio, where Jiminy Cricket sang, “…Always let your conscience be your guide.”
The one flaw in such reasoning, is that the conscience can only direct us properly to the extent it has been taught, trained, and shaped. Like a GPS, the conscience can only guide based on the information that it’s fed.
You do know that a GPS can give you the wrong information, don’t you?
A few years ago, a 67-year old Belgian woman, followed her GPS directions and ended up going 900 miles in the wrong direction! Stories like this abound.
“Conscience” is a Bible word, defined by W. E. Vine, as “a knowing with” or “a co-knowledge with oneself.” Furthermore, he writes, that the conscience bears witnesses to one’s conduct as we understand God’s will and “is designed to govern our lives”
Used 30 times in the New Testament, Conscience is described in various ways.
A “good conscience” 1 Pet. 3:21
An “evil conscience” Heb. 10:22
A “weak conscience” 1 Cor 8:12
A “clear conscience” I Tim. 3:9
A “seared conscience” I Tim. 4:2
A “defiled conscience” Titus 1:15
The condition of our conscience depends on the extent to which it’s influenced by the Word of God. By a clear understanding and a proper interpretation of the Bible. The more we saturate our minds and hearts with Scriptural principles and precepts, the more accurate guide the conscience will be.
However, if we allow false information to infiltrate our minds, and subjective emotional feelings to fill our hearts, we will be less likely to be correctly guided by our conscience.
A good and pure conscience is felt when we obey Christ’s commands, live faithfully to His Word, and conduct our lives in accordance with moral, ethical and spiritual direction it provides.
However, when we knowingly violate God’s will, refuse to heed His counsel, and defiantly travel our own path, then we defile our conscience and soon will sear it to the point that sin doesn’t bother us anymore.
Of course, those who’ve never been taught right from wrong, or who’ve long ago rejected God and His moral absolutes, are not surprisingly guided by an evil conscience where they’ve become a law unto themselves.
By keeping our hearts tender, our purpose divinely directed and our minds filled with a knowledge of His Word, the conscience, as C. S. Lewis expressed it, can be the “voice of God within our souls; the bridge that links the creature to the creator.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman