"Good, but for Whose Benefit?"
January 1, 2013
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
It was only a few short weeks ago that the news was filled with the story of a NYPD officer who bought shoes for a homeless man.
The following week some reporters went out and did a follow-up on that story. What they found was both surprising, shocking and, for many, disappointing. They discovered the man wasn't homeless at all. On the contrary, he had an apartment in the Bronx and a family who were more than willing to help him and take him in, if he wished.
But there's more. The reporters found that the man was, once again, wandering around barefoot.
When they asked him why, he had an answer. The man said that while he was deeply thankful to the policeman for his act of kindness, he felt wearing such expensive boots would make him a target for mugging.
More than one commentator thought the officer and his helpful heart had been taken for a ride. Almost to a man they suggested that somehow, in some way, that act of charity had been nullified by the recipient's response. Finally, they said people should always work through a non-profit charity, rather than directly helping those who are supposedly in need.
At least in part, I find myself disagreeing with those critics. No, I'm not going to weigh in on how people should contribute, since good arguments can be made by both sides. My difficulty arises with the suggestion the gift was made invalid because the non-homeless man didn't wear those boots.
If that statement holds water, then we must be forced to say Jesus' blood-bought gift of salvation is lessened because Christians still sin, because hundreds of millions still don't believe in Him, because there are many who are doing their best to nullify the significance of His sacrifice.
The truth is no matter how much or how little people respond to what Jesus has done, God's great gift of forgiveness and eternal life won by the Savior is still the most wonderful act of charity this world has ever seen. What Jesus did cannot be tarnished by humanity's lack of appreciation. Nor can it be nullified by our disregard.
Similarly, the good deeds done by a Christian are not made greater or lesser by how they are acknowledged.
We do what we do to reflect the Savior's light into this dark world and give glory to the Father.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, Jesus' sacrifice for me is the best gift I shall ever receive. May my heart always be filled with gratitude and my life reflect the love I have been given. No matter what the response, may I follow His example and continue to do what is right. In His Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries