By Pastor Glenn Pease
In the spring of 1897, Thomas Hanna, a 25 year old Baptist pastor fell out of his carriage and landed on his head. When he woke up he was in a state of total amnesia. Dr. Boris Sidis and his assistant Dr. Goodhert had to teach him to talk, to eat, and to go to the bathroom as if he were a child. They took him to the theater, to the zoo, and to dinner with his family. For two months they labored to jog his memory by recreating scenes from his pre-accident life. One day Hanna experienced a moment of crisis, and the past and the present came together, and his memory was restored. He recovered completely and Dr. Sidis became quit famous for his success with this patient.
The element of surprise in this true story is that Dr. Sidis was one of the most famous atheists of his day. He was a genius who qualified to get into Harvard at age 9. I have read his biography, and can testify that he had one of the most amazing brains in American history. He wasted most of it, but the point is, as an atheist he did good for a Christian pastor, and on a mental level he saved his life, and he made it possible for him to go on to save lives for eternity.
God can use some of the most unlikely instruments for good in this world. In Paul's life there were Roman soldiers that God used to do good for Him. These pagans help Paul accomplish his ministry for God. Atheists do good; pagans do good, and anybody can be an instrument for doing good in this world. It is not limited to Christians, for they do not have a monopoly on doing good. Doing good is universally accepted and encouraged. The result is that the Christian often feels that doing good is such an anemic idea. Anybody can do good, and even non-Christians can get so good at it that they get labeled do-gooders. So with this negative label plus the universal possibility of doing good, the Christian tends to write it off as superficial and inconsequential.
The result is that Christians often miss the chance to communicate with the world on that level where all people understand the language of doing good. The Christian often gets deceived into thinking that the Christian approach to people has to be more name brand, and not so generic. We have to do the spectacular and unusual. We are like the sports team that thinks that the only way to win is to be clever and tricky. But the fact is, no team ever becomes great without getting back to the basics. What Paul is saying in our text is that doing good is the ABC foundation for living the successful Christian life.
Paul says there are two kinds of seeds we sow in life. There are the seeds of self-indulgence which please the sinful nature, and there are the seeds of doing good to others which please the Spirit. Doing good then is not a mere side-line in the Christian life. It is a basic principle of Christian living. That is why Paul is stressing that Christians must not get weary in well doing. It is the only hope for a harvest, and so he urges them to do good to all men whenever they have opportunity, and especially to a family of believers. The only way you can please God is by doing good, and the only way you can please anyone else is by doing good. All relationships in life revolve around doing good for one another. If you are not doing good, you are not building any relationship you have.
When we say that you have to work at marriage, it simply means that you have to work at doing good for one another. The same is true for friendships, and working relationships. All relationships are dependent upon a mutual doing good for one another. A relationship where no good is being done is a decaying an dying relationship. Show me a person for whom you do no good, and I'll show you a person you do not love very much, for love on any level can only exist when doing good is part of the relationship. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. Had God not done good for the world it would be hard to define, or even to detect His love. Love is only real when it is exhibited in the doing of good.
Love is not just something you feel. Love is something you do. If you do not do some good for another, it is not possible to give any meaning to the statement that you love them. Love has no content without doing good. Loving relationships are only kept alive by doing good. If you do not maintain a relationship by the doing of good, it will soon look like your yard if you never mow it, or your hair if you never comb it. You cannot just have good feelings about your yard or hair to keep them looking nice. You have to do something, and so it is with relationships. They only remain beautiful to the degree that you do some good.
You can get a battery that is maintenance free, at least for some time, but there is no such thing as a maintenance free relationship. The idea of a maintenance free battery is so you don't have to relate to it at all. You can neglect it, and forget it, and not have to bother with it. Maintenance free means a non-relationship. A relationship is not an event, it is a work of art that calls for continuous creation by adding to it the new life that comes by doing good. This principle applies to all relationships, and so this text could take us in all kinds of directions, but our focus for this message is on our relationships in the work place.
The first thing we need to do is to honestly recognize that it can be a complex matter to figure out what doing good to all men means. Doing good to a fellow employee by covering for them may be good for them, but bad for the company. Doing good for one may lead to envy and jealously in another. It is not always easy to know what doing good means. The best choice for doing good is not always evident. For example, here is the dilemma of one worker: "Suppose your company needs parts, and you are responsible for placing the order by Thursday of this week. They can be purchased from a local firm, or for 38% less from a Latin American supplier. Buying Latin American would mean better profits for your stockholders and lower expenses for the firm. However, the local company may be facing layoffs and need the work. But the Latin American might need work, too, and while laid-off American workers get unemployment checks, unemployed Latin Americans are often reduced to levels of extreme poverty. The decision is troublesome and the answers aren't clear cut."
The complexities are endless. Do you hire the person is less qualified, but who is most in need of a job? Do you work harder to make up for a lazy employee, so they don't lose their job? There are no end to questionable matters about what doing good means, and how can we know the results of doing good? A psychiatrist helped a man get over his inferiority complex, and the next day he was fired for arguing with a cop. We can get so confused by a thousand and one questions about doing good that we experience the paralysis of analysis, and just decide to forget it.
This is the very thing Paul is warning us not to do. Do not get weary in well doing. It can be tiring, and the pay off is not always evident, and so we tend to give up and try another approach, like waiting to see what will happen if we do nothing. Paul says don't do this, and don't give up. You cannot fail in doing good, for regardless of the results you are doing what pleases God, and this will always lead to a harvest of reward for you. Did Jesus fail when people walked away from Him? Did He fail when He healed 10 lepers and only one came back to thank Him? That is not much of a statistic to brag about-a 10% response for doing good.
It can be discouraging if you measure life by statistics. That is the popular formula for success. It is all a mathematical calculation. If a man hits 320, he is more successful than the man who hits only 228. If you get down the slope at the Olympics a hundredth of a second faster than anyone else, you are more successful than they are. If you type 110 words a minute, you are more successful than one who only types 90. If you sell a million dollars worth of insurance, you are more successful than the one who sells only 500,000. Life is so simple when you measure by the mathematical formula for success. But this whole scheme come apart at the seams when you begin to ask questions that are not measurable by math.
What is the man who sells 500,000 of insurance is a better father, husband, friend, and citizen, then the one who sells the million? This really throws a monkey wrench into the machinery. There is no way to calculate the value of love, joy, peace, and any of the fruits of the spirit. Paul says that these are the elements of true success in life, and they are the elements of true success in the work place. Jesus did good to all men, but not all men responded positively. Some even sought to kill Him, and eventually they succeeded. "For which of my good works do you stone me?" Jesus said on one occasion. Doing good does not always succeed, but it never fails. It always pleases God, and it always makes you a success in His sight, even if it does not always get a positive response from people.
Paul got into much trouble by trying to do good to all men. The Jews hated him for doing good to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles hated him for trying to please the Jews by conforming to some of the Jewish traditions. Paul had an awful time in doing good to all men. He knows how wearisome it can be, and how tempting it is to throw in the towel. But this man, who suffered so much for doing good, urges on us this principle of Christian living-do good to all men. It is the key to your success in the Christian life. It is your key to being a successful Christian in the workplace.
Paul says, as we have opportunity let us do good to all men. We do not have opportunity to do good to most of the human race, but we work with people 8 hours a day, and there is nobody in our life who provides more opportunity for doing good than those with whom we work. The possibilities for applying this biblical principle are endless. Like the Good Samaritan, we have opportunity from time to time to do good to total strangers, but everyday we have a chance to do good to people at work.
God made Adam and Eve directly, but after that He never made another living person without the help of man. Not even His own Son was made without a woman. God's plan is that He will use people to accomplish His purpose in history. In His providence He opens doors of opportunity for His people to do good, and the degree to which they enter these doors is the degree to which they succeed in being fellow workers with God to change lives and history. It does not make any difference if you work with Jews or Arabs, Blacks or Asians, Catholics or Unitarians, for you are to do good to all men. Do not use the excuse that your job is different, and that the people you work with are different. They are people, and so they fit Paul's category of doing good to all people.
Jesus did good to the thief on the cross, and promised him that he would be with Him in paradise. You do not have to find people who are worthy of your efforts at being good. You do not have to check their credentials to see if they qualify, for there are not requirements to qualify. If they are people, they qualify, and you are authorized to do good to them.
This does not mean there is no need for discernment as to what form of good you will do. There is cooperation that is unwise. Like Michael Devlin who was attacked by two thuds. He fought like a tiger, but they beat him up, broke his glasses and his nose, and tore his wallet out of his pocket. It contained only three dollars, and they were angry. One of them said, "Are you crazy? You put up a fight like that for three lousy bucks?" Devlin said, "I'm sorry, I thought you were after the two hundred in my socks." There is such a thing as too much cooperation. Doing good does not mean to cooperate with those doing evil. We are to overcome evil with good, but we are not to cooperate with evil thinking that is good.
This is not to say that you do not do good to the godless and worldly people in your environment. Christians often feel they should not do anything to encourage the people who are godless in their lifestyle. This is to miss the whole point of doing good to all men. Jesus said that it is the sick who need the doctor, and that is why He did good to people who are out of God's will. They were worldly and unethical, but Jesus did good to them because He loved them.
In Graham Green's novel The Heart Of The Matter, a British government worker was stationed in a hot dirty town on the West coast of Africa. Someone asked him why he did not request a transfer to get out of such a place, and he responded, "Here you can love people nearly the way God loves them, knowing the worst about them." That fits the workplace better than it does the church. We see people at their worst at work. They show their value system, and the godless aspects of their life. That is where we can love people like God loves them. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. He did good for us while we were godless and unworthy, and that is when we need to do good to all men. It is when they do not deserve it, and when our only motive could be to please God.
Doing good means meeting needs of people. Everybody needs help and encouragement, and the Christian is to strive to be that kind of resource, even for the non-Christian. Why should you be this to the non-Christian? Because it is a language they can understand, and it is the only good reason they will see for wondering whether the Christian life is for them. The best witness any Christian can be to a non-Christian is by doing them some good. If this basic biblical truth is going to transform our daily work, we need to focus on two key words that convey the essence of this text. The two words are priority and persistence. In other words, we need to make the doing of good to all men our short range priority, and our long range goal that we persist toward no matter how hard the struggle. Let's consider first-
I. OUR PRIORITY.
The number one objective of our daily work is that in the doing of it we do good to all who are involved in the workplace with us. This is the language of love that is universal, and which is the cement that holds any relationship together. A day at work in which you have done nobody any good is a day lost for pleasing God. We need to face our daily work with this goal in mind as a priority. We must find a way to serve God in our work. There has to be a way we can be a blessing to others. One of the key ingredients the Christian is to strive to add to the workplace is meaning. A lot of jobs can be boring and routine. They seem to have little significance in the total scheme of things. The Christian priority is to do all men good in that setting by seeking ways to tie it in to the greater picture of life.
Dostoyevski, the great Russian novelist, said that the irrational character of work was the great curse of man, and if you wanted to utterly crush a man just give him meaningless work. Hitler proved this true. His Jewish prisoners were able to survive disease infected barracks with little food and back breaking work. Daily he marched them to a large factory where tons of human waste and garbage were distilled into alcohol. It was a nauseating atmosphere, and on top of it, they were helping Hitler fuel his cruel war machine.
When the allies bombed that factory, the next day the prisoners were ordered to shovel sand into carts at one end of the destroyed building and carry it to the other end and dumb it. The next day they had to move the pile back to the other end. Day after day they took the pile back and forth. One by one they began to break. They would cry uncontrollably, and some who survived three years in the camp ran toward the electrified fence and were electrocuted. Dozens went mad and were shot by the guards. Charles Colson, who describes this in detail in his book Kingdoms In Conflict says, the lesson is clear. Men will cling to life with dogged resolve as long as their work is meaningful. Even if their work supports their hated captors. But purposeless labor soon snaps the mind. He learned this in prison, and one of the reasons he devotes so much of his life to minister to people in prison is because he had made it a priority of his life to do good to these people by helping them see that their lives can still be meaningful in prison. He has done good to masses by adding meaning to their existence.
This is a challenge for all of us in the workplace. How can we help people feel good about their place in life, and their job? Our own spirit about our job can make a great difference in how we encourage others. You might still question if this is really a Christian priority in life, but let me show you again from the Word. Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." The kingdom of God is the rule or reign of God in your life. If God rules in your life, you will be doing what pleases Him, and Paul's whole point here is that what pleases God is doing good unto all men. This means the doing good to all men is seeking first the kingdom of God. This means the helping of people feel good about their life and work is seeking the kingdom of God in the workplace. It all ties together, and makes doing good to your fellow employee a priority in the Christian life.
The idea that we seek first the kingdom of God only at church, and on Sunday, is to make the kingdom of God irrelevant to most of life. Keep religion in its place is what many like to say, but they forget that if God is real He is Lord of every place, and there is no place where He is not, and where He does not want to rule. Wyn Sutphia in his book Thine The Glory writes,
"So many men employ the witchery of words in order to confuse.
They draw up a dividing line between the sacred and the secular
and call them different.
"Don't dirty faith," they say, "By rubbing it in life.
No, keep it to the incensed altar and the lilied bower
lest it smell of man's mortality."
It is a subtle trickery.
You see: the sacred-and-profane,
The spiritual-and-the worldly,
Life splits into, and God
Becomes a half-a-God who only
Rules the half of life!
Religion is confined to church and cloister:
When "the worship's over, God returns
and stays there until next Sunday
We need to reject this nonsense, not only in thought, but by action, and see that our doing good to all in the workplace is seeking first the kingdom of God. It is a false dichotomy to think God is more pleased with our worship than our work. Paul says that if we are doing good we are pleasing the Spirit. There is more evidence to suggest the idea that God is more delighted with you when you encourage a fellow worker than He is when you sing a hymn. The song is more for your benefit, but the doing of good is for God, for others, and for you. The point is not to put down worship, but to exalt work, and all its possibilities, as a place for pleasing God, and doing His will in the world. It needs to be a priority in our lives if we are going to be successful Christians.
Sometimes life brings marvelous opportunities to do good to others. Paul Wittgenstein was a concert pianist, and the worse thing that can happen did happen to him. He lost his right arm in World War I. But in 1931 Ravel's Concerto in D for the left hand was written, and other composers followed with music for the left hand. This made it possible for Paul to have a repertoire for his concerts throughout Europe. What an amazing encouragement. They couldn't give him a hand, but they gave him what he needed to use his one hand for employment of his gift. We can't expect to be a part of wonderful things like this everyday, but everybody needs a hand or encouragement, and this we can do everyday as we seek to let Christ transform our daily work by doing good to all men.
We don't have time to pursue the word persistent. All we need to say is what Paul says here-don't get weary. This doing of good is not merely an event. It is a lifestyle you persist in regardless of the response, because you do it to please God. Jesus is our example. He set His face steadfastly to go to the cross. Nothing could stop Him from doing good to all men by dying for the sins of the world. We also are to let nothing stop us from making it a part of our lifestyle of doing good to all men.