Doing the Right Thing
I ran across someone’s teaching on integrity the other day. He wrote that doing the right thing for the right reason is a blessing. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason can be due to pride or greed. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason is a mistake. And, doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason is a sin. Let us look closer at each of these.
Doing the Right Thing For the Right Reason
Suppose you found a bank bag that had lots of money in it. There is no identification in the bag, only a logo of a bank doing business in your community on the outside of the bag. There is no one to see you pick up the bag. Though you are tempted to just take the bag of money home with you, your conscience tells you to take the bag and all the money to the nearest branch of that bank. In the end, you listen to your conscience and leave the money – all of it – at the bank. You have just done the right thing for the right reason.
For an example of doing the right thing for the right reason, read the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37.
Doing the Right Thing For the Wrong Reason
Now, let us suppose you are presented with the opportunity to serve as the chair of an influential committee in your community. Taking this position would be a big feather in your cap and should lead to bigger and better things in the future. Your name mentioned prominently in local media. Loftier positions in the community. Better business connections and opportunities. You are on the road to greater fame and fortune. And, to doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
Review Matthew 6:1-2 where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for giving to be recognized for their generosity.
Doing the Wrong Thing For the Right Reason
You are having lunch at your usual spot to grab a quick bite, and you observe the fellow at the next table gasping for breath, obviously choking on his food. Recognizing he needs help, you quickly rise and rush to his side. You grab the man about his shoulders, turning him away from you. Then you give him a big slap on the back, further lodging the clod deeper into his throat. Hoping to help, you have made a bad situation worse by doing the wrong thing.
Saul of Tarsus passionately tried to do what he believed to be right in God’s eyes by persecuting followers of Jesus. Read Acts 8:1-3.
Doing the Wrong Thing For the Wrong Reason
This one is all too easy for us to see. You know no one is watching, so you click your mouse on that website you should not visit. You and your friends figure out a way to cheat on your test at school. You falsify your tax return. You misrepresent the facts in a business transaction. You have had a hard day at work, so you take it out on your family that evening. Doing wrong things for the wrong reasons.
One of the clearest examples of the wrongs people commit is found in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12, and David’s series of sins involving Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
I have two sons who make me very proud. Not that I had that much to do with it, but these boys are really good young men. Kyle, the older son, was just born with a God-given bent toward doing good. It just does not occur to Kyle to do wrong, and he does not quite understand why people do not choose to do the right thing. His younger brother, Sean, was not born with this innate goodness. Sean could be a little mischievous as a child. He told an occasional untruth when he thought it might serve his purpose. But, as he grew up, Sean made a conscious choice to change, and as a new person in Christ, left his old nature behind. As a young adult today, you could not ask for a better husband, father, neighbor, employee, and friend. I could not tell you which of these boys I am more proud of.
Like it is for Sean, doing right and avoiding wrong is a matter of choice for us. Thankfully, we have the help of the Holy Spirit in making the right choices. But even then, our willful nature sometimes leads us to make wrong choices. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:14-15, “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” This is the conflict we have between our old, sinful nature and the new person we are in Christ. Doing right is a choice, as is doing wrong. Let us not exalt ourselves for doing right, but neither should we get too discouraged when we do wrong. Even Paul did. Knowing that we will sometimes make the wrong choice can help us forgive ourselves (and others) for the occasional misdeed, and prepare us to make better choices in the future.
Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek in Branson, Missouri, An Imperfect Church for Imperfect People