I did something nice two days ago.
I hereby announce to the world that I will not say any more about it.
Except, for the sake of explanation, I will give you a small peek into what happened: I did something small that somebody else should have done. There would have been minor consequences to the action and I considered letting the consequences play out but then I consciously did the right thing and took care of it for them. I then planned to tell the offending party that I had done this good deed – just so they would know. But in the end I decided not to say anything.
The thought processed through my mind like this:
- I should do the right thing;
- I shouldn’t expect to be rewarded for doing the right thing;
- I shouldn’t expect to be noticed for doing the right thing;
- I shouldn’t expect to prove a point by doing the right thing;
- My motivation for doing the right thing should be because it is the right thing;
- If everybody in the world did the right things – even invisibly – the flood of goodness would make earth into heaven.
I’m not an example of ‘good-doing’ of course; my stories of niceness are so rare that I end up writing about them in my blog.
However we are all guilty of acting in ways that elevate us, benefit us, protect us rather than in ways that are blindly, lovingly good. That is the world we live in – everything seems to get turned into a transaction or a score, so we naturally look for ways to measure our goodness or get rewarded for our kindness.
I wonder if we would continue to be good if nobody noticed? Would I do a good job if there were no measurable benefit? Would you continue to be nice if you never got complimented? I wonder what would happen to charities (especially churches) if there was no tax benefit for our donations?
We are tempted to try to buy heaven with earthly gifts but that is a crude, short-sighted, human invention. Goodness we do with ourselves in mind is conditional goodness, not God’s selfless way of goodness.
The following four verses often get interpreted through the eyes of a ledger keeper: ‘Give your money to us because you can’t take it with you’, or ‘Volunteer to help us because you will be rewarded emotionally’, or ‘Do this thing and God will bless your soul.’ They may or may not be true but that’s not the point.
Read Jesus’ words slowly, with spiritual eyes that ignore material investment:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
– from this weekend’s Lectionary reading in Luke 12:32-34 (NLT)
God is not an accountant. If he kept a ledger we couldn’t live. The reading is not about giving this to get that; it’s not an investment strategy of accumulating in order to do well in the future.
The earliest Christians would not have understood that kind of self-serving thought. They already possessed what was most important and so they gave freely from what they had. Doing good in the world simply served to begin the process of bringing heaven down to earth – the first step in God’s ultimate goal.
Look closely again: Jesus’ words begin with the reassurance that we are part of his flock; we are under his care. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you…’ The passage is about the freedom of letting go of an investment mind and replacing it with a generous mind.
Generosity and goodness are manufactured in the heart. When we let go of our selfish motivations then our generous father can use them purely and perfectly. Spiritual treasure is not measured but it does multiply.
Imagine what good would happen in the world if we Christians could let go of our tippy idols of reward and blessing and instead gave away unrestrained goodness as a love offering to God.
Where is your treasure? It’s where your heart is.
Where is your heart? I’ll leave that with you.
Think about it.