In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father. ~ Matthew 5:16 (NLT)
There is an old saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” It’s a cynical saying. The worldview of those that champion it generally is one of doom and gloom. Essentially, this one sentence captures the pessimism of millions of people around the globe. The sentiment it expresses is simply questioning why we should do good when it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the world. But, this concept really misses the point.
How does one change the world? Is it through a great big demonstration like giving away a gazillion dollars to end homelessness? Or, is it creating a medical device that can save countless lives? The answer is yes. But, changing the world has less to do with the gesture than who it impacts. For example, rather than looking at the gazillion dollar give away, look into the eyes of each person that it helped. Rather than celebrating a medical breakthrough, talk with the parents of the child who your device just saved. We change the world through people.
The “good deeds” that Matthew is mentioning in this verse have nothing to do with earning bonus points with God that we can somehow cash in when Christ returns. Rather they have more to do with changing people’s lives for the better. Just look to the example of Jesus. How many miracles did He perform that were not aimed at a single human being? Maybe a handful. (Walking on water, fish and loaves, etc.) However, His greatest deeds were reserved for helping individual people – healing a leper, raising the dead, helping a blind man see, casting out demons, and on and on it goes.
Our good deeds are to be focused on helping others. Our actions are to help other people in their moments of need. Our desire is not for worldwide recognition or awards. Instead, as the verse says, it allows us to demonstrate the gospel message; we give glory back to God. Everything we do in ministry must be outward focused. It is about demonstrating the love of Jesus in us and through us.
So, how do we become world changers? By doing good deeds for one person at a time. And, as we do this, we celebrate and talk about the God that causes all good things to happen.