taking the words of Jesus seriously

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Red Letter Book Club, featuring Peter Greer’s latest book, “The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good.”

The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good by Peter Greer with Anna Haggard is the slap in the face much needed by today’s affluent Christian. Not that the book is written exclusively to the affluent Christian, but it certainly nails the culture which pervades in “first world” Christian communities. Peter Greer doesn’t let us get away with “good intentions.” He calls for self-examination to firmly remind us that the heart is deceitful and our good intentions are often little more than self-deceptions, even when we are “doing good.”

Peter Greer, who is the CEO of Hope International, certainly has a front row view of this topic. Much of the book contains personal anecdotes and examples of his own journey through the minefield of “doing good.” Because of this Peter is able to powerfully connect with the psyche of the reader. As such, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is a powerful tool for personal reflection.

My personal favorite chapter is “Worm Food” which is about “The Spiritual Danger of Thinking You’re the Superhero in Your Story.” Our culture has such emphasis on the individual that it can really go to our heads in ministry. More importantly, people think in terms of stories and narratives. We have the stories we tell others, and the stories we tell ourselves. Being the “center” of our own narrative is a dangerous place to be and closes our eyes to the work God is doing all around us.

The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is written in digestible and potent chapters. Peter and Anna have a great rhythm of identifying a problem, giving examples and anecdotes, and then helping the reader apply the chapter to themselves. This book would work great for a leadership study in your church, ministry, or organization. Each chapter is a study unto itself, with a clear message and follow up questions for discussion.

In many ways, this book reads like a therapy guide to narcissism. There are many aspects of Christian culture which have become entitled and detached. The “God Loves My Job More Than Yours” chapter covers the pride of Christians who would assume the work of ministry is superior to the work of the laborer. The chapter called “Christian Karma” discusses the secret deal we try to make with God that if we do good, then nothing bad will happen to us.

The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is a great start to a conversation which I hope doesn’t end with it. The Christian community needs this gut check to understand that good intentions and naive behavior aren’t enough to effective do real good in this world. Most of all, it is a reminder that our responsibility is to Christ first, and putting our hearts right before God. Peter Greer and Anna Haggard nail the individual issues of do-goodery, but there is room in the future for looking at how our corporate behavior in churches, nonprofits, and charities would change if we were more sober about the fields we are plowing.


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