taking the words of Jesus seriously

We should do good for goodness sake, not to achieve some other goal.  A good act is good in and of itself.  There are some people who believe that the only reason we should do good to others like providing the poor and oppressed with food and medicine, etc., is in order that we might win them to Jesus.

In other words, the good is simply a hook that we use to catch them and drag them in.  I believe that when good is done with such motives, the good loses its spiritual dimension. Good is not good because of a pressured conversion or awkward Gospel message. Good is good for its own sake.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “When you do good (i.e., alms), make sure that you do it in secret.  Make sure that your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing.”  When you read that in the Sermon on the Mount, you have to ask yourself, “How can I reconcile those red letters in the Bible with doing good with an ulterior motive such as getting people to be willing to listen to my rip on the Gospel which should be done in secret?”

I told a youth group once that when they delivered their Christmas baskets, they should knock on the door, wait for the people to answer, present them with the food, and then sing some Christmas carols.  I asked these young people, “Do you really feel that the recipient is going to fall over, converted to Christ because of your generosity?  In all likelihood, they will feel embarrassed that they are in an impoverished state and have to depend on the gifts you are giving.”  When these young people asked me what should be done, my response was simple.  Sneak the presents and food onto the back porch and go away, call the people on the telephone and say, “There’s stuff on your back steps.  Go and get that stuff.  It’s for you.  This is God!”  Then hang up.

The Bible says that the God who sees what you do in secret will reward you openly.  It couldn’t be clearer from the Sermon on the Mount that the good that we do should never be for manipulating people into believing our doctrines.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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