Do Good to Those Who Don’t Deserve It
By Kent Langham
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” - Matthew 5:43-46
When considering Christian ethics, many of us probably live more from an outflow of our cultural understandings, political experiences, or personal feelings than from the Bible’s instructions. A variety of mindsets keep us from loving our neighbor the way Jesus commands. Although this article isn’t the right platform to discuss all of them, there is one idea that may seem more natural, even though contrary to biblical teaching, than all the others. This is the idea that we should do good only to those who deserve good.
While our sinful hearts may commend this idea, Jesus does not. Sadly, especially in the Bible Belt, Christianity is largely expressed through the cultural frame of conservative politics and Southern gentrification than it is through the frame of biblical principles. It may even seem like a concept that is right to us; it makes sense to us, and it feels intuitively to be in line with the way the world works. However, this is fundamentally the problem with the idea; it is how the world works, but it is not how God works.
Jesus commands us to love our enemies, which I think, from the context of the passage, implies those who are not only our personal enemies but also enemies of the Cross of Christ. This command more broadly shows us that we are not to withhold good from those who, from our vantage point, don’t deserve good to be done to them. Why? Because God does not withhold good things from those who hate him, but he “sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5: 45.) So, if our primary purpose of existence is to bring glory to God by rightly bearing forth his image on the earth, then we should by all means do good to those to whom we are in position to do good. When we live this way, we reveal very important truths about the character of God, namely, that he is kind, good, and merciful. If the God of the universe gives life and breath and everything to people who will utterly reject him to eternal destruction, who are we, people who were once alienated from him and rejecters of his Christ, people who have been shown everlasting mercy, to withhold good from those to whom it is due (Prov. 3:27-28)? It is also not our responsibility to take vengeance on those who have wronged us, but to “Repay no one evil for evil” and to “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men,” knowing that the Lord will ultimately have justice on all wrongdoing (Rom. 12:17-19).
Above all, brothers and sisters in Christ, remember the kindness that God has shown you in drawing you to a saving relationship with himself through the death of this Son, and allow this understanding to be your ultimate motivator as you seek to do as much good as you possibly can, not just for the sake of doing good, but “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). When we do good as God does good, we paint a beautiful picture of the excellent works and incredible goodness of our Heavenly Father.