When the deck behind our house began caving in, I knew its repair would exceed my abilities. So I made some calls, got some bids, and picked a builder to construct a new deck.

Once the contractor was done, I took a close look at his work and noticed some problems. Seeking a second opinion, I called the local building inspector and got a surprise. The deck guy had not obtained a building permit. Working without official oversight, he had violated many points of the building code.

This incident reminded me of an important truth (other than asking to see the building permit): We often do less than our best if we don’t have any accountability to the authority over us.

In Scripture, we see this principle explained in two of Jesus’ parables (Matt. 24:45-51; 25:14-30). In both cases, at least one unsupervised worker failed when the master was gone. But then we see a different approach in Proverbs 6. We see the example of the ant, which does good work without a visible supervisor. It intrinsically does its work without being monitored.

What about us? Do we do good work only when someone is watching? Or do we recognize that all our service is for God, and so do our best at all times—even when no human authority is watching?