Do Good: The Second Rule

Part 2 of our 3 part sermon series based on Bishop Job’s book – Three Simple Rules

The Japanese have a saying, “Bachigatata” or “Bachi” for short.

It’s a more crude way of saying “What goes around comes around.” As Christians we have a saying too, “A man reaps what he sows” which comes from our passage this morning. If you have a Bible or a Bible app on you, please go to Galatians 6:7-10. Galatians 6:7-10. People like this saying because it seems to imply a sort of justice we’re comfortable with, but Paul isn’t advocating justice against others. Instead, Paul is trying to encourage people to live a Christ-like life. And when he says, “What goes around comes around,” or as he writes it, “A man reaps what he sows,” he’s telling the church and us that what we put into something, the effort we make, is what we can expect to get out of it. If we put good effort into something it’s more likely we’ll get good returns. But if we put little effort, or bad effort into something or no effort at all, we can only expect what we put into it. So here’s the passage from the Bible.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Quote often ascribed to John Wesley although there is no proof he ever said it
Quote often ascribed to John Wesley although there is no proof he ever said it

This idea of “doing good,” which is what Paul writes about here is familiar to Methodists.

There’s a famous quote that’s often attributed to John Wesley that says, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. Sadly, there’s no evidence that John actually wrote or said this really phenomenal quote, but it is certainly a reflection of his teachings. In his sermon “The Use of Money” he said, “employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree to the household of faith, to all men!”[1] So it certainly is in line with his beliefs and it’s one of the three General Rules he wrote down for the Methodist societies. Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God. “Do no harm” the first rule we talked about last week is more reactive. It is a rule that encourages us to be thoughtful, to take time out to ponder our words, to think through a situation. But it’s a rule that is meant to prevent us from doing something hurtful. So if “do no harm” is reactive, “do good” is proactive. If “do no harm” is reactive, then “do good” is proactive. Here, Paul is telling us that we need to be proactive. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

(L to R) Casey and Dan from Sports Night
(L to R) Casey and Dan from Sports Night

All of this made me think of an episode of SportsNight.

This particular one was called “The Quality of Mercy at 29K” and in it, Dan and Casey who are two of the main characters and the anchors of a fictional sports show called SportsNight are in their office where Dan has received a stack of mail from different charities all asking for money. Casey asks Dan about the mail and Dan tells him, “I’m on a mailing list to end all mailing lists…A couple of months ago, I wrote a check to someone and now I’m in the middle of Dickensian London. I’d love to give money to all these people, but then I’d have no money and I’d need somebody’s mailing list just to pay rent.” They spend the next few minutes talking about how Dan can’t figure out who he should give money to because they’re all such worthwhile causes and finally Casey says to Dan, “You know, while we’ve been having this conversation, a couple people have probably died from something you could have cured.” But aren’t there times we feel like Dan? There are so many worthwhile causes, how do we pick out one to help? If we’re supposed to do all the good we can, then it stands to reason we want to make the best choice – not just with our money but with our time and effort, too. We want to maximize our utility. We want to make the biggest impact we can with what we’ve got. But figuring out how best to do that can be tough.

Dan, struggling with his mounting list of choices, goes up to his boss, Isaac.

Dan asks him where he gives his charitable money and Isaac tells he gives it here and there since there are lots of good causes and Dan says, “That’s the problem.” Isaac looks at him and tells him, “Danny, every morning I leave an acre and a half of the most beautiful property in New Canaan, get on a train and come to work in a 54-story glass hi-rise. In between, I step over bodies to get here – 20, 30, 50 of them a day. So as I’m stepping over them, I reach into my pocket and give them whatever I’ve got.” Dan asks, “You’re not afraid they’re going to spend it on booze?” And Isaac responds, “I’m hoping their going to spend it on booze. Look, Danny, for these people, most of them, it’s not like they’re one hot meal from turning it around. For most of them, the clock’s pretty much run out. They’ll be home soon enough. What’s wrong with giving them a little Novocain to get them through the night?” That’s one of the problems we wrestle with. “You’re not afraid they’re going to spend it on booze?” We worry so much about what might happen with what we give, whether it’s money or time or talent, that we end up holding back giving at all, or we give cautiously. But that’s not how Jesus envisioned us helping one another. He said to the rich young man to give away his wealth to the poor. He didn’t put conditions on it. He wanted us to give abundantly. Jesus praised the widow who gave her last two mites, she didn’t worry if the church would spend it properly. God wants us to have a heart for giving – giving money, giving time, giving talents, giving a kind word, giving our sympathy, giving our love. He wants us to have a giving attitude. Let God worry about where it all goes.

Finally, the episode comes back around to Dan and Casey.

Casey asks him if he’s solved the problem of who to give to, and Dan says, “It’s easier being a miser.” And Casey responds by saying to him, “Can I say something? You’re not going to solve everybody’s problems. In fact, you’re not going to solve anybody’s problems, so you know what you should do? Anything. As much of it and as often as you can.” Anything. As much of it and as often as you can. It’s like Casey was channeling John Wesley or Paul right then. Give anything, as much of it and as often as you can. God wants us to be proactive. He wants us to simply get into the habit of being giving people, of trying to do good. It’s a mindset and a lifestyle – not a chore or a duty. And even when we fail. Even when we mess up and end up doing more harm than good, what matters to God is our motivation behind it. Doing good is being proactive. Not waiting for people to ask for help, but find out where people need help and do that thing.

Our faith is empty without good deeds.

James, the brother of Jesus wrote about this extensively in his letter. He said, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26).” That’s because a person who says he believes in Jesus but does nothing to help his fellow human being does not really have faith. They have faith in themselves or faith in their money, but not faith in Christ to do what is needed. James also wrote (James 2:15-17), “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” And while I think James intended for that to be a statement against Christians who call themselves believers and do nothing to help others, it’s also a prescription for ourselves. Our faith is brought to life, both in other people AND in ourselves, when we live it out.

Dilbert embodies GIGO
Dilbert embodies GIGO

There’s a computing term I’m sure you’re familiar with that fits in with our topic today.

Even if you didn’t know it was a computing term, which I didn’t, you’ve probably heard of it. GIGO.[2] GIGO. It stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out and refers to the idea that bad programming will lead to bad results. Bad data will produce faulty conclusions. Basically, you get out what you put in. And that’s true for every aspect of our lives. Our friendships, our family, our marriages, our jobs, our hobbies, our passions and our relationship with God. You get out what you put in. People who never come to church, never pray, never read their Bibles, who are too caught up in everyday life and then wonder where God is when they are in trouble astound me. They think God abandoned them or that he never existed, but the truth is they’ve never learned to notice God in their lives, in the people around them, in the ways things have happened for them. They have a faulty way of understanding how God works in the world and so they feel let down because God hasn’t magically taken away their ills. But those people I know who have spent time with God always seem the most at peace, the least anxious, and the most happy. And that’s the kind of life I want to live. I’m betting you do too. So do good. Put effort into the world that you want to see come out because as Paul wrote, “A man reaps what he sows.” And “bachi” has a way of sneaking up on you. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-50-The-Use-of-Money

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garbage_in,_garbage_out

If you would like to watch the entire episode, some downloaded it for free on YouTube and I’ve included it here for your convenience.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s