God isn’t going to bless you for making yourself look good

When you do something nice for somebody, what’s your first reaction? Do you want to keep it quiet, or do you want to run out and tell the world what you’ve done? This is one of those difficult lines to walk because on one hand, you want people to know that there’s a need you’ve invested in, and if they want to be blessed they should invest too. But at the same time, you want to be humble about it.

We’ve all seen celebrities and politicians and other folks get up in front of us and talk about charities they support or good things they’ve done, but in my mind, it’s a lot harder to to envision them being really truly passionate about a cause when all they do is talk about it. Maybe that’s wrong of me. But in my experience, the people who truly care about causes or even other people spend more time doing something rather than talking about doing something.

woman-makeup-beauty-lipstick_1232x816Today’s verses are Matthew 6:1-4.

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

When you let that person in line behind you go in front of you, do you shout it to the store so they know what a great person you are? When you do that favor for a friend who didn’t ask for it, do you make sure your friend and everyone else hears about it so they can see what a great friend you are? That’s not to say that we shouldn’t go the extra mile for people. We should be kind. We should be gracious and generous and loving. The problem we run into is in the why.

Why do you want to help your neighbor? Why do you want to be kind to that person across the street? Why do you want to support a charity? Are you doing it so that you can get the recognition for your act of service and sacrifice? If that’s the case, your motivation is wrong. If any act of kindness becomes about you and your own recognition, rest assured, the applause of the people watching is all the reward you’re going to get, because God isn’t going to bless you for making yourself look good.

If you want to help others out of a genuine heart of love, it won’t matter who notices. It won’t matter to you if you get a story written about you in the newspaper. It won’t matter if you get interviewed on television. It won’t matter if your friends understand the sacrifices you’re making for them. What matters is that what needs to be done is done, and who gets the credit for it should fade away, unimportant and insignificant.

That’s the attitude God can bless. That’s the kind of person who God can make great.

Does that mean you should never talk about the good things you do? No, of course not. There is a time and place to talk about the good things you’ve done, but it all comes down to the motivation behind them. Your heart attitude will determine your words and your actions, and if your ministries are all about you, that’s what you’re going to talk about. But if your ministries are all about Jesus, that’s what the focus of your conversation will be.

Is it easy? No way.

It’s hard to do something kind or great and go unrecognized. It’s difficult because you don’t think anyone notices what you’re giving up to help others, and that’s discouraging. But God notices. So don’t feel insecure. And don’t feel unappreciated. Don’t chase people down to point out the good things you’ve done just so that you can feel better about yourself. That’s not the point of doing kind things for others.

Nothing you do is in vain. God sees it all and knows your heart. So trust Him to bless you in His good time. Jesus didn’t. And He had more reason than anyone to talk about His sacrifices.

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Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Good deeds aren’t just for Boy Scouts

When’s the last time you did a good deed? When you think of good deeds, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe this is stereotypical and wrong, but I always think of Boy Scouts. I’ve only known a few Boy Scouts, although the ones I known have made it to Eagle Scout, and they’ve all been very kind people who would go out of their way to do good things for others.

This month I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, which says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” In the last few days, I’ve really been focusing in on goodness because it seems to be, from what I can tell, the kind side of goodness, rather than the moral excellence part. Moral excellence certainly is involved, but the actual word used is more like benevolence instead of righteousness. And I didn’t know that.

It’s good to be benevolent. It’s good to do good deeds because it’s the right thing to do, but with that kind of thinking, how long will you keep doing good deeds? What makes a good deed the right thing to do? What do good deeds look like? Are we talking about helping little old ladies with their groceries? Are we talking about tackling a purse snatcher? Are we talking about supporting a charity financially? Because if I’m just doing good deeds for the sake of doing them, I’m going to get tired of it. I know people who do good things for others because it’s the right thing to do, and that’s admirable. But in a broken world where good deeds are rarely rewarded, often unrecognized, and usually more trouble than they’re worth, I believe you need something better as a motivator than just: “It’s the right thing to do.”

If you don’t, you’re a better person than I am, because I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. And I don’t always do the right thing. I’m just going to be honest.

Aside from the fact that this kind of benevolence–this type of goodness–is a gift from the Holy Spirit, what motivates good deeds? Where should the desire to do good deeds come from?

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 2:14-26.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

This is a really long bit of scripture for today, but I think it’s relevant. I love the Book of James. It’s short, to the point, and doesn’t pull any punches. This passage is often used out of context to prove that our salvation is dependant on our actions. If you think that, read the whole thing again please, especially verse 23. Here, I’ll put it up again in case there’s any doubt:

James 2:23 – And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

It’s ironic too because this is basically a restatement of Genesis 15:6, which says, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Get the picture? It’s not our works that save us. Our works demonstrate that we have been saved. We’re not doing good things so that we can be righteous. We do good things because we have been made righteous. It’s outward expression of an inward change, like baptism. It doesn’t save you; it’s just evidence that you are saved.

And conversely, if you don’t show evidence that you have been saved, have you been? I’m not judging. I don’t know your heart. But it’s a good question to ask yourself, especially in a study of the Holy Spirit. If your life doesn’t display the Fruit of the Spirit, which is the evidence of God working in your life, maybe you ought to start asking some really personal questions about what you believe.

If you believe in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. So where is the evidence of your faith? I have to say, I’ve been blown away by what I’m hearing about people stepping up to help the victims of the tornado that tore Moore, Oklahoma apart on Monday. Maybe not all of them are Christ-followers, but I know many who are. And I am so honored to be able to call those people making such huge sacrifices my brothers and sisters.

What about you? How do you see good works? How do you view good deeds? Are they just something Boy Scouts do to earn a badge? Or are they just the right thing to do? Or are they an expression of what you believe? Think about it. Good works alone aren’t enough, just like quoting scripture isn’t enough. You’ve got to back it up. You’ve got to live it. You’ve got to get it in your life.

And the true irony about doing good for other people is that even though you’re sacrificing to help someone else, you get a bigger blessing out of it than they ever will.

Peacock on sand

The motivation for good deeds and why it matters

Doing the right thing makes people stand out in a crowd. Anymore, it’s unusual to find someone who does the right thing. And it’s even more unusual to find someone who will serve others at the cost of their own comfort. It’s just not popular.
 
But when you run across someone who genuinely cares about other people and who is intent on doing good for others no matter what the personal cost, don’t they seem to shine a little brighter than other people around them? Kind of like the world is gray and they’re vivid?
Peacock on sand

Peacock on sand - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

I think that’s how living a real Christian life should be. Today’s verse is Matthew 5:16.

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

People get caught up in good deeds and good works a lot of the time. I that’s because we judge each other by our works. Our works are usually an indication of the state of our hearts, which is something we can’t see.

Let’s be honest. If you are really interested in serving God and living a life like Christ did, you will serve others. You will put others before yourself. Your life will demonstrate that you believe in Jesus. Your checkbook and your calendar will demonstrate that you believe in Jesus. Or it will demonstrate that you’re just faking it.

But in the end, good deeds don’t save you. You can do all the good deeds in the world and they won’t make you perfect. They won’t excuse you from your imperfections. Only Christ can do that, and He doesn’t excuse you from imperfection, He became perfection for us and took our punishment so we didn’t have to.

So if you’re a Christian and you do a good deed, what do you say if someone asks you why you did it?

Do you say that it was the right thing to do? Sure. It probably was. Do you say it’s because you wanted to be a good person? Well, I’m sure that’s true, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a good person. By as a Christian, why do we do good things for other people?

Isn’t it because God has told us to? Isn’t it because the Bible says to value others more than ourselves? Isn’t it because that’s how Christ lived?

Good deeds make you stand out. Caring about others makes you stand out. So why, when people ask us the reason for our regard, do we backpedal and say it was only right to do something nice for them?

I can say, from personal experience, that’s it’s easier to just shrug it off and say it was the right thing to do. It’s easier than looking like a freak and saying, “God told me to hold that door open for you!” or “I bought your lunch because Jesus would have done the same!”

But what happens when you take the motivation for a good deed and turn it into something that was just the right thing to do? Suddenly, that good deed is no longer about God or about living a Christian life. It becomes about you. Doing a good deed becomes something that was done to make ourselves feel better or look good. And that’s not why we are to do good works and good deeds for other people.

This verse today, Matthew 5:16, comes from a larger passage where Jesus is talking about how believers are like a city on a hill. You can’t hide a city on a hill. The lights shine into the darkness and can’t be covered up. That’s the way a Christian is supposed to be. We’re supposed to live in a way that we are undeniably obvious, living like Christ and giving God glory for everything.

It’s difficult to give God credit among people who don’t know Him. But as believers, we are to let our good deeds point toward God. Don’t let the opportunity to introduce someone to God pass you by because you’re afraid they’ll look at you funny.

If you do a good deed, be ready to explain why.