Is it possible to be good, without doing any good?

What Andy Stanley said.
I listened to Andy Stanley last Sunday and was jolted by an interpretation he gave on Jesus’ teaching. Stanley is a remarkable apologist.

Jesus tangled often with the religious authorities. On one occasion Jesus accused them of loading people up with the burden of their religious rules, but not lifting a finger to help those people. But the authorities always felt like they stood justified before God.

Stanley said the religious leaders were technically blameless, but were practically worthless. Its possible to be good without doing any good.

Jesus himself spent half of his life helping the poor and the suffering.

Stanley went on to say the danger in our time is to be good for goodness’ sake. If we do all the right things we will be blessable. Unfortunately, this can result in an over-emphasis to stay between the lanes in our personal moral life, and focus only on our own goodness. This can lead us to become overly judgmental and short on compassion toward others.

This may be okay for a Christian, but not for a Jesus-follower, Stanley said in making an interesting distinction.

What Jesus said.
Jesus was tested by a lawyer in The Gospel of Matthew chapter 22, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

The Good Samaritan story.

Jesus answered what almost anyone Jewish would have known: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

The religious leaders in their interpretation would have affirmed this in saying, “Keep the law. Be good and stay out of trouble.”

But Jesus wasn’t finished. “And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.”

Stanley gives this a 2022 interpretation: It’s easier to be good than available to help someone. Unfortunately you can be good but unavailable. It isn’t just about you, it’s about the folks around you.

What Ghandi said.
I watched the famous movie called Ghandi again last week. A Hindu fighter was utterly broken because he had killed a young Muslim boy during the fighting when India tried to separate Hindu and Muslim populations into separate countries.

Ghandi stared at the broken man before answering. He said find an orphan child, of which there were many, and adopt the child. And then added, make sure the boy was a Muslim.

A lady who lost her dog.
Last Monday, I heard that Carol, a lady friend, had to put down her dog after 15 years. I called and sympathized, as best I could, but this seemed inadequate. Later, perhaps because it was also Monday, I was feeling down and a little depressed with imminent challenges I was facing.

My thoughts turned back to the dog. Suddenly it became clear — Carol could use some hope. I drove straight to the flower store and bought some white orchids and left them at her front door. Carol called later and thanked me from the bottom of her heart.

What Saint Paul said.
Saint Paul was a vicious anti-Christian before he encountered God. Everything changed. Later he urged people in the Galatian church he had seeded to “Serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, love your neighbor as yourself.” {Quote from Galatians 5).

Stanley’s interpretation was: This is how you know you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. It’s not enough to be a good person, nor to be blameless in your own sight. If you’re not good for somebody, you are just an empty, clanging gong.

What Jesus said.
At the last supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This becomes the law of Christ: to give, to serve and to love others. This was Jesus’ end game.

Stanley’s interpretation: Confront your self-centredness with Jesus’ invitation to be generous toward others. It won’t be how well we behave that gets people’s attention. It will be how well we love.

Click to access video (30 mins)

The 30-minute video by Andy Stanley, called the End Game, can be found here:

I would be very interested in your comments on this topic – pls add to the Comment box below.

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2 years ago

I agree whole heartily with what Andy Stanley is preaching, which is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need all the our ” Good” people and even more, but the Lord has asked us to go even farther; to love (and serve) one another, and that means everyone. It is not easy, but as a wise person once said, “It must be possible, because Jesus Christ has asked that we do it.” Thanks Ian, I appreciate this very timely and important blog post. It reminds me to do much better.

Don Compton
Don Compton
2 years ago

Ian…a very important topic to focus on. It is so easy to settle into a self- centered lifestyle. Thanks for the reminder to show love to others…not just be loving.

David Smythe
David Smythe
2 years ago

One of my favourite scriptures Acts 10:38′ God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and he went around doing good’ What an example .
I think a truely good person will bear the fruit of doing good.
We don’t do good to get saved. We do good because we are saved. Its a fruit of the Spirit
The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector speaks to this question.Humility, honesty and honour of God are foundational to goodness.
A little rhyme that speaks loudly.
Mr Goodshoes went to church he never missed a Sunday . Mr Goodshoes went to hell for what he did on Monday
Every Blessing David

Don Bremner
Don Bremner
2 years ago

The religious leaders request and Jesus’ response were about a ‘commandment’ not a polite request. A commandment requires obedience, if your heart is genuinely changed with reverence for God. Moral issues take precedence over the ceremonial practices that the religious leaders made overtly visible every day. Obedience is an uncomfortable word for some, often related to punishment or reward. True obedience is rooted in love. The leaders heart was not changed and scripture doesn’t comment on him again.

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