Good Works

Fred Smith clarifies the concept of doing good.

By Fred Smith

I had great fun spending a weekend with Dick Halverson, then chaplain of the Senate and a group of friends. We shared thinking, eating and just plain fun. We talked about living and how often we have the opportunity of doing good. I remembered the verse about Christ, "He went about doing good." It was the natural result of following His circumstances and doing good as He went. He was intentional in the everyday. Recently I met a young man who wanted to quit his computer job and go around giving his testimony. I asked him if he wanted to go exclusively to churches where people would be friendly and applaud him; he said that was right. I told him that in three months he would be lying because I've heard a lot of people stop working and start giving their testimony and in six months they aren't worth shooting. His responsibility was to give his testimony where he worked until they believed him. We are to do our good while we work, not as our work. Wal-Mart advertises that "GOOD works." This play on words expresses the holiness of everyday living and working. Kierkegaard said if he heard someone was coming to do him nothing but good, he would with haste leave the house so as to miss him. Christ didn't go about doing good when he was feeling good, nor did he go about just feeling good. Christ did not go around looking to do "the highest good." He just did the good that was at hand. When we are looking for the highest good it's so easy to ignore the small bits of good. It's easy to become immobilized looking for the highest good. How do we quantify the impact of good? We cannot begin to measure until time passes. For example, an unknown English theologian was writing of the Christian faith which was being read by an agnostic teacher in Oxford whose name was C. S. Lewis. He became a Christian, delivered a series of apologetic lectures on the BBC published as Mere Christianity. Tom Phillips, CEO of Raytheon, visited Chuck Colson before he went to prison and gave him Lewis's book. He was converted and formed Prison Fellowship upon his release. There is no small good versus large good. There is no hierarchy of good in God's economy. It is a chain that links human history together in God's plan.

I read a story about Steve Largent that I found interesting. At six years old his father deserted the family and Steve saw him rarely. His mother married a drunk and Steve would come home from school with his brother to physically stop the fighting. He hated home and tried to stay away as much as he could. He heard about a teenager meeting where they served cookies and punch, and he liked cookies and punch—particularly when it meant being away from home. It was a Young Life meeting where he found Christ. I doubt that the lady who fixed the cookies and punch thought she was doing "great Kingdom work." She was going about doing good leaving the measurement to God.

Christ went about doing good letting His circumstances set the agenda. A year or two ago I got a letter from a lady who was reading You and Your Network. She stopped to write me to tell me what it had meant to her. Her story is that when she was 12 years old she saw her father murdered. She became so deeply depressed that for the next eight years she was in and out of institutions and from one attempt of suicide to another. She found the Lord and became a minister. As we continued exchanging letters she told me how that she wasn't preaching right now because she was in a "blue funk" and she was afraid that she was going into a "black" one, which of course meant suicide. I wrote to her. Here is what she wrote back: "Fred, I don't have to be famous, do I? I don't have to be well known to be a faithful Christian, do I?" She told me that she saw a newspaper story of a girl about the age of her own daughter, who was jailed for prostitution and drugs. She went to visit her. When she asked "how are you?" the young girl defiantly answered "I'm ok." My young friend said, "I'm glad. I just wanted to tell you that God loves you and I would like to be your friend." As she said this the girl ran to her sobbing and they stood there hugging each other. I doubt that in her pastoral life she ever preached a sermon more eloquent than right then. In her daily circumstances she was going about doing good. What good can you do as you go? Then do it.