14 July 2008

"Goodness" the missing piece - Galatians 5:22-23

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit, “Goodness” is sixth on the list and the list is quite impressive. You could say it is the “who’s who” for character qualifies. It includes love, faithfulness and self-control to mention just a few. Despite the association, however, Christians do not discuss in detail or demonstrate often this quality as the world understands it. Christians are very concerned about being right but have little interest in being good.

Non-Christians, on the other hand, are often more visibly involved with good deeds of a humanitarian type. When Christians don’t follow suit (and even speak against doing so) the non-Christians are first confused, then become angry, act betrayed and become cynical about God, the Bible, church and anything else associated with Christianity. And the Christian response to this situation is a bit callous. We take issue with the offense.

There is a reason for this attitude. The one thing all Christians understand foremost is the freeness of salvation. God saved us because He was merciful, with no consideration for any good that we have done. In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that no one is good enough and, therefore, good deeds do not figure into our salvation one bit. Therefore, talking about doing good deeds after freely being saved almost feels like a compromise.

When non-Christian people and organizations engage in altruistic activities we snicker and huff as if we know something they don’t. When they suggest we do the same we rally to the cause of theological purity as if that is a good reason not to care about people who desperately need the basic necessities of life.

Sadly, Christians tend to be theologoically restricted. Any activity, which does not lead directly to salvation or to an understanding of some eternal truth or to a commitment to church activity, is seen as spiritually barren or insipid. Humanitarian activities are not considered the spiritually “manly” thing to do.

And when Christians do act in humanitarian ways there is always a catch. It is never done without ulterior motive. The supply of help is conditional. People must qualify on some spiritual level before we help them.



  • Is the person who needs help a Christian?

  • If so, is the person a good Christian?

  • If not, do we have reason to believe they will become a good Christian if we help (i.e., tithe)

  • If not a Christian will they seriously consider salvaion if we get involved.

Our help should rather be strategic than conditional. Providing material assistance may (or may not) open the door for spiritual ministry but it does put us in a good light and makes what we have to say important.

But, we should do good whether the door opens or not. Jesus made that clear. In fact, God is good to every person and many of them still reject His love.

Truth: the Bible says a lot about doing good deeds and the understanding is, we do them because it is good to do. A few verses will suffice to make the point but a thorough study reveals the enormity of the topic.

Peter described Jesus ministry as “going about doing good” (Acts 10:38) and the Gospel record shows Him doing as much good materially as He did spiritually. We are expected to do the same.

In John 5:28-29 Jesus said,

"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear my voice and come out-- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."

Obviously, in the mind of Jesus, doing good was not a secondary issue.

In Romans 2: 9-10 Paul echoed these sentiments.

“There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

In Ephesians 2:10 Gods intent regarding good works is clearly seen.

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…”

One last verse reveals that we must do good deeds for everyone, not just the chosen few.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)

Disclaimer: The Bible does not teach nor am I suggesting that salvation is the result of good deeds but clearly the Bible does teach that good deeds will be the evidence of salvation.

GOOD DEFINED

Good involves both spiritual deeds and material deeds. Both have eternal implications. Our activities, however, are usually heavily weighted toward the spiritual (witnessing, teaching Bible truth, worship, teaching Sunday school, etc.) sometimes to the exclusion of the material.

The content of the Gospels, however, reveals heavy emphasis on the material side of things. Jesus healed the sick constantly and fed the hungry in great numbers. The people He helped materially were not followers in the strict sense of the word before or after He assisted them. In some cases they were hateful after being helped. And what He did in His ministry is what He taught we should do in ours.

Jesus said we should do good to people that hate us, even lending to them (Matt. 5:44-45; Luke 6:35) only because they need it, never because they deserve it. When we do, He said we are acting like God.

Jesus broke the law when He healed a man on the Sabbath and He said it was justified because He was doing a good humanitarian deed. The implication? It is evil to fail to meet desperate material needs when we can, even on a holy day. The religious leaders responded by making plans to kill Him. Obviously, religious people don’t easily catch on.

Jesus taught that the second of the two great commandments is “love your neighbor as yourself” and in the Sermon on the Mount He said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These statements are not difficult to understand but they can be easily confused.

A lawyer, who was very familiar with these teachings, attempted to confuse the issue by asking one qualifying question: who is my neighbor? In response Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. The point or points?



  • Doing good, even in the material sense, shoiuld be an automatic response.

  • Everyone is a neighbor even those you love to hate.

  • It will cost time, money and effort (very inconvenient) but it is the right thing to do.


Bottom line? Being neutral in the face of material human need is nothing but selfishness even when whitewashed by the appearance of spiritual good.

NATURE, ACTIONS AND INTENT


Good is measured on three levels. Your nature, your actions and your intent.

Everyone is guilty by nature. Unfortunately, everyone is born with a faulty nature. We inherited it from our fore-fathers and that makes everyone a sinner by default. Jesus said that no one is good but God and the Bible affirms that all others have sinned (Romans 3:23). The only way to change this predicament is to receive a new and different nature and that happens when you are born again. You are guilty by nature but fortunately not condemned yet.

Disclaimer: regrettably, a new nature alone is not enough. Knowledge and experience are required as well. The Bible says by use we have our senses exercised to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:14). The new nature, without instruction and practice, is still without direction. Meeting the material needs of others should be automatic, intelligent and skillful.

Everyone is guilty by action. Solomon said, “there is not a just man upon earth that does good and sins not.” If you start with a bad nature and mix in faulty information the only logical outcome are misguided deeds. The possibility of doing good will improve only when you get a new nature and after you are well instructed. You are guilty by deeds but fortunately still not condemned yet.

Absolute guilt, however, is settled on the third level, the heart. The battle for salvation happens here. A good heart intends good even when it does wrong. A bad heart intends wrong even when cloaked in smiles and "expressed" good intentions.


A good heart is honest not sinless and admits when it does wrong. A bad heart justifies the wrong it does. A good heart will eventually admit to the futility of real change without intervention from God. A bad heart is obstinate and refuses to change. And a good heart is receptive to God’s answer to our sinful condition. The Bible says “with the heart man believes unto righteousness.”

Conclusion:

The first good step is believing in Christ for salvation. Following that more good will come.

This short message does not cover the subject of goodness entirely but it does give you enough to ThinkAboutIt. Please give us your perspective.

4 comments:

TJ said...

Brother,while I do agree there are many out there both christian and non christian who either do no good deeds or do them for the wrong reasons. I find in my contacts with other christians a lot of good being done with not ulterior motives. My church affiliation has many outreach ministeries that help all in the community not just our church and we expect nothing in return. As I write this, our church is going on a mission called Mountain Top where teens and young adults go to the back hills of Tennessee and do repair work and other necessary things for those living in sometimes horrible circumstances. We provide the materials and labor and I know they have replaced roofs, porches, help rebuild broken down homes, etc. I cannot go because of my work situation, but I sponsored one of the young people to help with expenses. Perhaps my church home is an exception to your comments but I feel there are many Christians who because of the saving grace they have received do good deeds because that is what the bible teaches us to do. And, when you have accepted Christ and the gift of salvation you want to do good to share that gift with those who are not aware or who have not been told it exists. That is part of that salvation. You made some good points and the information was good food for thought but I feel there are more christians who do good for folks without expecting anythng in return than was implied.

Talmid said...

I agree wholeheartedly, as in anything there are those that “get it” and live life in the Kingdom of God as a follower of the poor, immigrant carpenter from Nazareth, and live their lives as He would live them if he were them. But in reality, very few choose to live the life of a disciple, just look around the world, if all Christians lived the life for Gods kingdom and not their own, things would definitely be different, world hunger, access to clean water and poverty could be eradicated by what Christians spend on ice-cream, cosmetics and entertainment. We tend to give out of our excess; instead of living frugally we spend on ourselves, give God 10% of our income and patting ourselves on the back as we walk into “church” smiling, thinking we are sure pleasing God and living for Him, as well as wanting to be praised and thanked for doing so. We should be doing good deeds with no strings attached, even going as far as doing them in secret!! Imagine that!!, loving those whom hate us, doing good to those in the margins of life and guess what we will be taken advantage of, lied to and stolen from. We need to lay down our kingdom and pick up Gods Kingdom, Jesus came not only to provide salvation for us, but also show us a new way to live. Live life under Gods kingdom where His will is done, there is much to discuss on this subject. Boils down to, live our lives as Jesus would live them if He were us, if He walked in your shoes every day how would He live!! Read Isaiah 58 sometime, when you have a second.

EnnisP said...

Hey TJ. Your church sounds like it is doing a great job and I commend you (them) on the effort. I'm not sure I agree on the number of Christians who actually do these things. I don't have specific data but judging from the desperation that exists and the potential Christian communities (in particular) have to address it I think there is much work yet to be done. I do believe the sentiment is growing and hopefully that will translate into upliftment in areas of the greatest need. But, your churc is definitely got the right idea. In fact, I haven't heard of any churches doing anything quite like that. Good food for thought.

EnnisP said...

Hey Talmid, you're right about the strings issue and the poor were never marginalized even in the Bible, especially the Old Testment. They weren't just given opportunities to make material progress they were treated with dignity.