Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 11 Page 3 November 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

When “Doing Good” Is Bad

By Allen Webster

Thesis:  There is a time for serving others in material tasks, and a time when we shouldn’t.
Once Martha became aggravated at Mary and said to the Lord, “. . . dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” (Luke 10:40).  Jesus reprimanded her for serving!  He said, “. . . Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (10:41-42).  It was good to fix a meal for the Lord; it was better to listen to him teach.  This applies today to someone who misses the Bible class to fix a dish for the noon fellowship meal or to someone who forsakes worshipping the Lord to mow a widow’s lawn.  It’s good to fix a dish or mow a lawn, but it should be done at a different time.  Families who have to sit with the sick should schedule the shifts during church services to family members who do not attend (if you can’t get them to go) so all God’s saints can join in worship.  It is also overkill for a whole family to stay home with one sick person.  Let all those who can, go.  (Incidentally, on another occasion Martha’s service was appropriate, John 12:2.)

The elder brother shows that reward for service can be cancelled out by a bad attitude.  He answered his father, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee . . .” (Luke 15:29), but his father insisted that he needed to forgive his prodigal brother and enter the feast (15:32).  The son, representing the Pharisees, reminds us that we do not put God in our debt by our service.  Rather, to use Jesus’ words:  “. . . when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants:  we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).  We are saved to serve; but we cannot serve to be saved.  We might be great “church workers” and still miss heaven if we harbor ill-will toward a brother or sister.  If we manifest a sour “wish-I-were-somewhere-else” attitude, we’ve given unacceptable service (cf., 1 Chronicles 29:9; Psalms 2:11; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Philippians 4:4).

The apostles practiced “time management” by appointing others to “wait on tables” while they prayed and taught (Acts 6:1-7).  It might be poor judgment for us to serve others if something more important needs attention.  Elders, Bible teachers, prayer leaders and preachers should always be willing to roll up their sleeves and take out the garbage, clean the baptistery or answer benevolence calls, but they should not forsake more important things to do so.  There are only so many hours in the day, days in the year and years in a lifetime.  They can burn themselves out trying to do everything.  Since everybody needs to work, and since some are uncomfortable teaching, preaching, leading prayers and visiting the lost/wayward, it makes sense to let deacons and other members “wait tables” to free time for more important soul-saving tasks that might not get done otherwise.

It’s all about priorities and attitudes.  Always do the best thing at the time for the right reason.

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