When Good Deeds Are Not Good Enough
It has become popular to balance out evil deeds with good deeds in order to make a bad person look better. If it comes out that a person has mistreated someone else, you will soon learn about an instance where that person did something good for other people. This ostensibly wipes away the wrong, or at least balances it out so the wrong doesn't seem so bad. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Or are we fortunate that isn't how it works?
Everyone does bad things. Everyone does good deeds. Your favorite person does bad things. Your least favorite person does good deeds. I know that is difficult to imagine, and we don't want to give any good credit to those we dislike, but it is true. History tells us that Hitler was kind to animals. Imagine a conversation about the atrocities of the Holocaust where Hitler's regime was responsible for the killing of 6 million Jews, and someone says, "Yes, but he made sure his pets were well taken care of." Would that change your opinion of Hitler?
If only... if only good deeds could erase or balance out the horrible effects of bad deeds. But they don't. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "You welcome the one who joyfully does what is right; they remember You in Your ways. But we have sinned, and You were angry. How can we be saved if we remain in our sins? All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind." (Isaiah 64:5-6)
If you have a bucket with 1 greasy, oily, bloody, dirty rag in it, I don't care how many clean clothes you put in that bucket, or how many times you move them around with the dirty rags... the dirty rag will never become clean. And in fact, the dirty rag will make the clean clothes dirty. By adding clean clothes to a box of dirty rags, you don't make the dirty rags disappear, and you don't make them clean. The dirty always contaminates the clean.
I have hurt people with my words and actions at times during my life. At the same time I was doing nice things for other people, and sometimes for the same person. But the person I hurt does not care that I gave money to the poor or that I acted nice toward other people. My good words and deeds cannot wash away my evil words and deeds.
The apostle Paul wrote on this very subject, "If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
Basically he is saying, "Who cares how much I act like a Christian? Who cares how much spiritual power I have Who cares how much money I give to the poor? Who cares how how much I sacrifice? Who cares how many good deeds I do? Who cares about these things, if I mistreat people? If I don't truly love people, every good deed I do is worth nothing."
We tend to grade people we like on a curve, while we tend to grade people we dislike with a hammer. "Yeah, this guy may have done a bad thing, but look at the good stuff they've done. And look at the other guy... just look at all the bad stuff he's done. I mean, that is horrible." We also do this with ourselves. But we just need to stop doing it with everyone.
The only thing that can erase any and all of my badness is the goodness of Christ. This is available through His blood which was poured out on the cross to cleanse us from all of our sin. This doesn't mean that doing good deeds is of no value. But my good deeds aren't good enough on their own. They only have eternal value in the context of redemption through Jesus.
And it is probably a good thing that I can't balance out my own evil deeds. Earlier I suggested that it may be a good thing that our good deeds don't balance out our bad actions. How could that be a good thing? Because if I could balance out my bad with my goof, I would probably not feel as bad about hurting people, knowing that I could just rack up some extra good deeds to make it all even. We can't make it even. But Jesus can make us forgiven and pure. And that is better than even.
Today you have the opportunity to do good or evil. Choose good. You never have to balance out or wipe away the good you do.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.