Sunday, November 14th, 1999
Doing Good to All
One of the marks of a Christian, that of helping others, makes some other people sneer and denigrate the Christian as a "do-gooder." Some people dislike being in the company of people who not only live good lives, but who practise that goodness. Is it that the light of their actions shows up the grubbiness of other peoples' motives? Or is it that such an example makes others ashamed? Or is it they prefer indiscretions from others in the hope they will distract from theirs? Why do people find it so hard to accept goodness in action?
God promised that He would always do good to the people who trusted Him. Doing good was part of God's character. Jer 32:40 "I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me." The Lord Jesus went about doing good. In one of the memories about Jesus after his death, was Acts 10:38 "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him." Jesus went about doing good: teaching, healing, preaching, serving, reminding us to care for children. Jesus had a balanced ministry. He could speak about giving a cup of cold water in His name to a thirsty person; He could kneel at the feet of His friends and wash their feet as a servant; He could, in the words of Paul, of His own free will give up all that He had, to take the nature of a servant. That was His example. He served others. Jesus went about doing good. The problem with many in our community is that just go about. After they have passed by, no evidence of goodness remains.
The early Christians were known for their good deeds. Doing good deeds marked them out from the rest of the community. Acts 9:36 "In Joppa there was a disciple named Dorcas, who was always doing good and helping the poor." It was also true of Stephen who was described as Acts 6:5 "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit," chosen to administer relief to any who were in need, the widows, the orphans, those who were victims of injustice in the community. Stephen was one of those chosen for this work, a man of action, doing good deeds.
Paul and Peter encouraged the early Christians in a life of good deeds. Paul wrote that God would reward the person who consistently helped other people: Rom 2:7 "those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, God will give eternal life." Peter wrote to His early believers: 1 Pet 2:15 "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men... 1 Pet 2:20If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God... 1 Pet 3:17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." Note how he declared it was God's will that we should do good to others and that it is by these acts of uncommon kindness that we ultimately silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
Christians have been known as those who served their communities, cared for the poor and needy, established the first hospitals and ambulance service, cared for those dying in plagues and burying those dead with contagious disease. Christians have served on every battle field, and to this day you find them first into the areas ravaged by hunger, drought, flood and fire.
My heart is warmed by those men and women of great faith within Wesley Mission's 45 services each week. For they are also people who are active in humble service during the rest of the week. They balance spiritual devotion and humble service, a balance of "word and deed." As Peter said, those lives of good deeds "should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
But not all. One radio personality cannot abide Christians doing good deeds. He derides such people as "do-gooders", blaming faults in the community on those who seek to reform society and show compassion on others. He does not do much to creatively change society himself but does comment on those who do. He forgets it is the person who is in the arena of life who makes the impact not those sitting in the grandstands criticising. Living devoutly and doing good are the hallmarks of the committed Christian. Paul in his letter to the people who lived in the central part of modern Turkey (Gal 6:1-10) mentions some marks of the mature Christian.
In the verses closing chapter 5, Paul contrasted the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. He concluded that Christians are to live Spirit-led lives. But what does it mean to live a life characterised by love, joy, peace, patience, and the other virtues? It certainly means a practical difference in everyday life. Paul demonstrates the Spirit filled life in the way we help those fallen into sin, in the way we help bear another's burden, in the way we manage our own burdens, in the use of our money and in the way we go about doing good. The reality of the Holy Spirit in the every day relationships of life is clearly demonstrated.
1. A CHRISTIAN HELPS ONE WHO HAS FALLEN INTO SIN.
1 "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Someone sins. What should you do? Overlook the sin? Refuse to face the facts? Expose the sin openly? Paul shows what to do, who should do it, and how it should be done.
First, a Christian is to restore the person who has fallen into sin. The verb restores is a medical term used in setting a fractured bone. What is wrong in the life of the fallen Christian is to be set straight. Second, Paul says that the work of restoring must be done by those who are spiritual. This word spiritual was used of the Spirit filled person at the end of chapter 5. Restoring an erring brother is exactly the kind of thing that spiritual Christians do. It requires maturity to deal with sin in others, so we elect Elders who are spirit filled and mature. Third, Paul says that the restoration should be gently done. Gentleness was a Christian virtue. No matter how spiritual we might be we are not immune from temptation. If we obey this instruction unkind gossip will be avoided, more serious backsliding will be prevented, the good of the Church advanced, and the name of Christ glorified.
2. A CHRISTIAN BEARS ANOTHER'S BURDENS.
2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ." The second practical example of spirituality is the bearing of another's burdens. We will not only help an erring fellow Christian but will help sharing his or her load. Christians must be willing to help the other practically, whatever the burden they are called to bear.
3. A CHRISTIAN HUMBLY BEARS HIS OWN BURDENS.
3 "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load." Two errors might stop you. The first is pride, thinking yourself more important than you are. If you neglect to bear another's burdens because you think you are above it, then you are self-deceived. By God's standards, no one amounts to anything. The second error that might keep you from bearing anothers' burdens is to be always comparing yourself with others. This can be harmful because you can over-value your significance leading to conceit, or under-value your own capacity. Do not compare yourself to others. Just carry your own load, look to God, and be prepared to help another.
The duty of a Christian is to carry his own load. There is no contradiction between carrying your own load and bearing another's burden. There are two different words: the first means helping another with their heavy burdens and the second means to carry your own pack. Each Christian has his own work to do, so do it. Then seek to help another who may have an extra heavy burden.
4. A CHRISTIAN SHARES HIS RESOURCES.
6 "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."
Paul applys the spirit-filled life in a practical way concerning the use of your resources. This includes your money. Three uses of money are mentioned: (1) the support of the teacher in a Christian congregation, (2) the use of money to build up the life of the Spirit rather than to feed the flesh, and (3) the spending of money to help others, particularly Christians. The principle that ties all three points together is that enunciated in the proverb: reaping is in proportion to sowing. Thus, a man will get out of his effort what he puts into it.
There was in the early days of the church a class of paid teachers at a surprisingly early date. Paul's policy was apparently to preach the gospel without receiving money, preferring to earn his living as a tentmaker. This was pioneer work. As soon as possible he seems to have established a more fixed structure. So here again he indicates that a workman is worthy of his pay. Supporting the Lord's servants is a sharing; a fellowship or a partnership. As the teacher shares the good things of the Word, so the congregation is to support him.
Paul again repeats the proverb: A man reaps what he sows. This is a law of God. You may fool yourself by sowing little but expecting much. But you cannot fool God. The result will be obvious. This is true especially in Christian living. If a man spends his money on what gratifies his fleshly nature, he will reap a fleshly harvest. And since the flesh is mortal and will one day pass away, the harvest will pass away also. On the other hand, if a man uses his money to promote spiritual causes and to feed his spiritual nature, the resulting harvest will last. The Christian must share resources with others.
5. A CHRISTIAN GOES ABOUT DOING GOOD.
9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." What stops so many of us living a life of helping a fallen brother, bearing another's burden, carrying our own load, and using our money generously and going about doing good is weariness. being weary in our work breeds discouragement and eventually giving up.
Three imperatives dominate: let us not become weary, do not give up, do good to all people. These are not options. They are orders! Being Christian requires some backbone, some resoluteness of will. Being a Christian requires some toughness. Taking up a cross, not a cup of tea! We have an obligation to do good to all, especially to fellow believers. If they are not supported by Christians, they will not be supported at all. I often advise people to give your time and encouragement to any good cause that attracts your concern. But make sure you give your money to Christian work; because no one else will do that. Christian work depends upon every believer. Paul speaks of the family of believers. This really means "those who have become related to us by believing in Christ" and points to a relationship transcending all others.
Some people criticise "do-gooders". But they are at least going about doing good, when their critics just go about. Paul put all this into perspective in how we are to restore the erring believer, bear other peoples' burdens, carry our own pack, use our resources well and do good to all always.
Gordon Moyes 1999
If you would like to receive a printed copy of Word Talk via mail, you can subscribe for just $15 per year. Please contact us on 02 9263 5555, or write to:
Turn 'Round Australia
PO Box A5555
Sydney South, 1235