For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. Mark 14:7
I saw the following quotation this week: “The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year.” – Voltaire
At first it seems that Voltaire is saying there is but one opportunity to do good a year while opportunities for mischief abound. That isn’t it at all. He’s commenting on how often we find each class of opportunity!
Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment – You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor – includes this key phrase; “Put the best construction on everything.” In other words, there is often more than one explanation to an event.
This was shown brilliantly in the 2008 Movie Vantage Point. It shows an attempted presidential assassination over and over but from different vantage points. Each time you change your mind on what is actually happening and who the bad guy really is.
Trying to do good is a struggle. St. Paul confesses,
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25
He also acknowledges in his letter to the Galatians that doing good can wear on our sinful selves.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Unless we decide to put the best spin on things, unless we decide to persevere against sinful inclinations and the weariness that struggle entails, we also may only find one opportunity a year to do good. And doing good is not just about helping the poor, contributing to our favorite charity, or being kind to family and friends.
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Luke 6:27
Um… I have to be nice to idiots? People that oppose and even hurt me?!? That’s what Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke. Remember that He forgave his executioners as they crucified Him. We need to do our very best to be like Christ.
Why? We will all appear before God’s throne on Judgment Day.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
Yup. We’re all going to have some “splainin’ to do.” Oh, we’ll be forgiven, but then again Scripture gives every indication that there will be greater and lesser levels in heaven. The Apostles will be at the “head table” so to speak. We will be rewarded with heaven for our faith in Jesus. We will also receive more or fewer rewards in heaven depending on our lives.
Part of doing good is simply a practical matter. St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. Romans 13:3
Do you want to stay out of trouble with the authorities? Keep your nose clean. Do good instead of mischief!
So, we can see that doing good is beneficial in staying out of earthly trouble, possibly making friends out of enemies, and being rewarded in heaven. These are all good reasons to do good. But doing good also benefits us here and now. James tells us,
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
You do good in faith. That faith is rewarded, fueling your faith. Practice makes perfect, eh? The more you find opportunities to do good, the better you get at spotting them. And there are definitely plenty of opportunities out there.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10