Turn away from evil and do what is good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Pursue good and not evil
so that you may live,
and the LORD,
the God of Armies,
will be with you
as you have claimed.
See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
—1 Thessalonians 5:15
Especially in the middle of the Psalm and the otherwise disturbing passage of Amos are very similar words. Paul urges the Thessalonians to do the same. Yet, pursuing or doing good can seem so vague.
On one hand, handing a panhandler money on the corner is probably not, ultimately, good for the panhandler. However, giving that same panhandler a meal in a safe and warm environment is. On the surface, both seem good. They might be also done for the right motive (love versus guilt). One is easy. One is harder (with others, can still be easy).
The Psalmist is focused more on God giving encouragement to those that love him to do the right thing. In the context of the Psalm, it is like a parent encouraging and guiding. This is what it means, the Psalmist implies, to love God and love others.
Amos’ words are those received when people do not love God and love others. Yet, as part of Amos’ admonishment to Israel is their claim that God is with them. They are right, as God is omnipresent. However, that doesn’t mean that they are with God, a nuance they missed.
Paul was a bit more explicit about doing good. When he wrote about doing good, it was to be for the benefit of others. This is self-less good. There is plenty of good, but self-less good is a step beyond. Other-than-self love is what grows the Kingdom of God.
However, doing good and seeking the good of others seems to be in short supply these days. One could say that Amos’ words apply to today, too. The rich and powerful, but not just them, are one-upping each other, and others pay the price.
Doing good for others isn’t just wearing masks in public (they certainly are annoying). It isn’t just yielding one more time to someone who thought that one more car length was worth diving into your line before they hit the cement barrier. It is one of many tiny, small, medium, and sometimes (just sometimes) it’s those really big things.
Doing good for others is supposed to be integral to walking with Jesus.
Jesus, give us your strength to do good to and for others, even when they don’t recognize it. Help us to live in such a way that we do good without thinking about it, so as to give you glory. Amen.
1) Why do we often relegate good deeds to those that “deserve” them?
2) Think of someone you don’t like (or might even “hate”). What good deeds have they done? (Be honest with yourself)
3) When is a good deed authentic? Can you tell when you or someone else is authentic with their good deeds?