Three Simple Rules: #2 Do Good

Last week I wrote about the first of John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules,” “Do no harm.” This week we will take a look at the second, “Do good.” It is not enough simply to avoid evil, we are called to be the “salt of the earth,” our actions should change the flavor of the world in which we live. Some would ask, “Why bother, the problem is too big.” Others, especially those who view the world as the authors of the Left Behind series, might say, “Things have to get much worse before Jesus comes back so let’s just let nature run its course. It’s no use trying to change the world, that will only delay the return of Christ.”

To the first statement, I would reply, “Consider a snowflake. It is one of the least powerful objects we encounter in our lives. Now think of the destructive power of an avalanche and how it can change the face of a mountainside. An avalanche is nothing more than a whole lot of powerless snowflakes all acting together with the power of gravity thrown in.”

To the second objection, I would answer, “This is a simple misreading of the Bible.” How many times must scripture teach us to do good? Remember Micah 6:8: “You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right,” (NJB) or James 2:26: “so faith without works is also dead.” How about Deuteronomy 6:18: “Do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, so that it may go well with you,”? The New Living Translation of Luke 3:8 says, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” I’m sure you can think of many other examples, too.

Wesley wrote, “Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men: To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison. To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine that ‘we are not to do good unless our hearts be free to it.’ By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another, helping each other in business, and so much the more because the world will love its own and them only. By all possible diligence and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed. By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world; and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely, for the Lord’s sake. It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation…”

These are not John Wesley’s ideas, they are simply his rephrasing of scripture. Wesley called himself a “man of one book.” In other words, all of his life experiences and everything he read he viewed through the lens of the Bible. He saw the poor and hungry, the imprisoned and he did something about it. These were not just helpful suggestions, this was his way of living out of the scriptures and Wesley expected no less from those called Methodists.

Watch for opportunities to do good in your everyday life, “doing good of every possible sort” and do them to all persons. Wesley encourages us to live frugally. What does that have to do with good deeds? Frugal living frees up funds to feed the poor, clothe the naked, support missionaries, and to be a counter example to the waste of the world. If each of us did a single good deed, a simple act of kindness, each day that would be almost 25,000 acts of kindness each month or 300,000 per year! That would surely be a goodness avalanche
that would change this community for the better, in a way that would help us all and bring glory to God.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

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