No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?
By Wendell Hutchins
[all Bible quotes NASB]
Have you ever tried to do a good thing and been accused of doing wrong for doing it? Does it hurt when that happens?
My favorite road is the one I’ve never been down before. Recently I was wandering around on the Oklahoma side of the Red River, and went down a certain road just to see if it came out on the river; when I found it did not, I turned around and headed back to the main highway.
As I got back to the highway my path was blocked by a train just arriving at the crossing. No problem, I enjoy trains; I killed the engine, rolled the windows down to feel the cool breeze, and listened to the train noise. But as the train thundered by, I heard a sound I did not expect; somewhere nearby, a puppy was whimpering like puppies do when they cannot find Mom.
When the train passed completely by I was able to locate the puppy. He was close to the road, and was stuck in a hollow place in a tree stump. I got out of my car and rescued him, and in his gratitude he decided to follow me back to my car. As I was trying to keep him from getting in with me a car passed by and then stopped just past the tracks.
I started driving, then stopped to see if the people who stopped their car had lost a puppy. They were writing down my license plate because they thought I had dumped the puppy there! I tried to explain but they were very skeptical, and I guess I can’t blame them. They told me they were turning me in to the local police, and I said that was fine, the cops could do forensics on my car and see if I had dog hair anywhere in it. As of today the police have not investigated me; but my license plate, and I would assume my name also, are on file in some police office in case they get bored enough to hunt me down.
For a while after these events I was annoyed, of course; and I thought to myself, “I don’t even like dogs! This is the last time I try to rescue one from danger!” But as I thought about it more I realized I would do the same thing over again, even knowing I would be blamed as an evildoer based on the circumstantial evidence. It was the right thing to do, pure and simple.
Bible students know that Jesus was accused many times of evildoing based either on limited understanding, preconceived notions, or a desire to put an end to His life and work. Here’s an example; John 5:2-16 “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] 5A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" 7The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." 9Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." 11But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'" 12They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your pallet and walk'?" 13But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you." 15The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.”
Now let’s read what Jesus said about this persecution in John 7:19-24; “Why do you seek to kill Me?" 20The crowd answered, "You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?" 21Jesus answered them, "I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22"For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23"If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
Jesus knows what it’s like to do good and yet be accused of evildoing, but He never let it stop Him from doing good. He received more slander and persecutions than any of us ever will; Matt. 12:22-28 “Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he? But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons." And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
How grave an insult it was to Jesus to accuse Him of being aligned with and empowered by the devil! But even more serious is to insult the Holy Spirit whom Jesus praised as His power source; Matt. 12:31-32 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Mark 3:1-6 tells of another occasion where Jesus did good and was judged as if He was doing evil; “He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" 4And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. 5After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”
How hard it must have been to do this healing knowing the reaction the witnesses would have! Imagine Jesus, the Son of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, looking around in anger at people who would not understand by choice! But He never let human opposition or ungodly and unrighteous judgment stop His mission, and never let His enemies subdue or silence Him until it was the right time, not for stoning (John 8:59) or being thrown to death from a cliff (Luke 4:29) but the RIGHT time, the time for the cross.
Do the followers of Christ ever get accused of wrongdoing when in fact they are doing right? The Bible says YES. Jesus said, Matt. 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jeremiah was a prophet who suffered much; one example is in Jer. 38:1-6; “Jeremiah was speaking to all the people, saying, "Thus says the LORD, 'He who stays in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans will live and have his own life as booty and stay alive.' Thus says the LORD, 'This city will certainly be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and he will capture it.'" Then the officials said to the king, "Now let this man be put to death, inasmuch as he is discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people, by speaking such words to them; for this man is not seeking the well-being of this people but rather their harm." So King Zedekiah said, "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you." Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah the king's son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.” He spoke God’s word and was persecuted for it, left for dead in deep mud!
1 Kings 22 records the prophet Micaiah prophesying to King Ahab, proclaiming a defeat for Israel against Ramoth-gilead; he furthermore pointed out those who claimed to speak for God saying Israel would have success were in fact lying to Ahab. What was the king’s reaction? 1 Kings 22:26-28 “Then the king of Israel said, "Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; and say, 'Thus says the king, "Put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely."'" Micaiah said, "If you indeed return safely the LORD has not spoken by me " And he said, "Listen, all you people." V.34 there records that Ahab died in battle. Micaiah told a truth that people did not want to hear, and suffered for it; and the Bible does not tell us if he ever got out of prison!
Acts 7:52-8:3 tells of the first Christian to die for his faith; “"Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it." 54Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
Stephen told a truth, a lot of truth in fact, that no one wanted to hear; so much so that the audience seized him and killed him as fast as they could. Not content with that, they went out and began persecuting anyone who was connected with Stephen or Jesus in any way! But you can read further how this did not stop the spread of the gospel, and the Bible record indicates that persecution for preaching Jesus brings a more numerous harvest of saved souls than peaceful times. (Maybe what the Lord’s church needs today is a persecution to erupt in this land…)
What shall we do today? 2 Timothy 1:7 says “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Those who stand for right are accused of evil when God’s truth is spoken concerning sexual sins, abortion, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and obedience to God in matters of religion. Shall we have courage or shall we let unrighteous judgment silence us? 1 Peter 2:9-10 “You are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” This is what Christians are! How blessed we are!
But what is the expectation Peter now lays out, based on these verses? Vs.11-12 “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” If our behavior is excellent, as it should be, it is inevitable that slander will come! We will inevitably be accused of wrongdoing when in fact we are doing right in God’s sight! But SOMEDAY there will be vindication, SOMEDAY the accuser will see that God’s way is right and what we were doing was not wrong or evil, but the will of God! And on that day God will be glorified by our right conduct!
However, our conduct will glorify God ONLY if it is according to His will; 1 Peter 2:19-20 “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” We are not called to defend our every action or to avenge ourselves; God will take what vengeance is right (Rom. 12:19). What we are called to do is to endure with patience and keep on doing what is right; and we had better be doing what is right if we expect God to vindicate us rather than be told by God that we deserve to suffer because we are not doing what He wills! Wouldn’t it be horrible to discover that all your life you thought you were doing God’s will and discovered too late that you were doing man’s will and not God’s will? Are you sure right now of what you are doing, and why?
Why do we suffer for doing right? If pleasing God is insufficient motive, here’s another reason in 1 Peter 2:21-23; “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” If Christ suffered persecution and slander (among other things) when He was perfectly sinless, it is right for us to follow His example in our less than perfect state and suffer for His name and bring glory to Jesus.
Notice that Jesus who had the power to avenge Himself did not do so, but trusted His Father Whose will He came to do (John 8:28-29) and patiently endured. Notice also that He suffered for us who are in Christ! He even suffered because of us, to benefit us! (read 24)… If He willingly and patiently suffered slander, persecution, and death- all for our sins!- let us rejoice that we can suffer for Him, just as the apostles did in Acts 5:41-42; “They went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name…
… And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” If we are doing what is right, even if we are accused of doing wrong or even sinning, let us keep doing what is right and let God who knows our hearts (Luke 16:15, Acts 15:8) vindicate us in the end, just as Jesus trusted His Father and kept doing the Father’s will in the face of all opposition and false accusation (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Changing the subject, let me repeat a question I asked earlier; Wouldn’t it be horrible to discover that all your life you thought you were doing God’s will and discovered too late that you were doing man’s will and not God’s will? Are you sure right now of what you are doing, and why? It is important, because Jesus said in Mark 7:6-9 to some who questioned His actions, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” Not every word said or deed done for religious reasons pleases God, friends! Not all religion is born of the mind of God! Jeremiah 19:5 and 32:35 God speaks of certain practices “which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination.”
Hear what else Jesus says, Matt. 7:21-23; “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'”
All this is why Hebrews 5:9 says of Jesus, “He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” Obedience starts with what the Bible calls obeying the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8, 1 Pet. 4:17). Because Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Cor. 15:1-4) He now has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18), which explains again why Hebrews 5:9 says what it says.
When we hear the word of God concerning Jesus and what He is and what He has done for us, we must believe it; Mark 1:14-15 Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Jesus says in John 8:24 “You will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Luke 22:70 “They all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I am." We must believe this to be saved! Furthermore, we must be willing to confess our faith in Christ (Matt. 10:32-33).
Repentance (turning for sinful living to righteous living, from our ways to God’s ways) is necessary once we believe; Luke 13:3-5 Jesus twice says “unless you repent, you will all perish.” A Christian will spend his life repenting of one thing or another, as he discovers things he is doing not pleasing to God; Rev. 3:19 Jesus says “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”
Initially, repentance is connected to baptism; baptism is where the initial repentance is complete, because our sins are forgiven not in repentance but in baptism; Acts 2:38-39 “Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." In Acts 22:16 a Christian named Ananias says to Saul (who later is known as Paul the apostle), “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
Because we have washed away our sins in baptism, we can from then on be cleansed by the blood of Christ as we live faithful (not perfect!) lives trying to please our Lord Jesus; 1 John 1:6-9 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And the blessed promise from Jesus is “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
You have no hope of vindication if you have obeyed anyone other than Jesus Christ, and you have no righteousness worthy of the word unless you are in Christ (Rom. 8:10, 1 Cor. 1:30, Phil. 3:9). Have you obeyed the gospel of Christ? Are you sure you have obeyed CHRIST and not MAN’S TRADITIONS? You had better be sure!