Acts 16:6-10 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us! ” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
Past the most good you want to do but shouldn’t, is the right good you should. And that’s the good that makes the difference God intends.
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
This quote is often attributed to John Wesley but there are scholars who doubt he ever said it. Wesley was born in 1703 and at age 35, experienced a radical conversion. He later founded Methodism. He was certainly a hero of the faith and a diligent student of Scripture. I doubt he said it, too.
There’s a lot more to right charity than doing all the good you can muster. It certainly feels good to give and sacrificial giving is good but our key passage in chapter 16 indicates there might be a right time to do good. And if there’s a right time, there’s also a wrong time. It’s hard to argue that doing good at the wrong time is a good idea.
Some believe this immoderate altruistic statement is what inspired Catherine Booth to say, “There is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in the most need.” Yes, this is where Salvation Army got its tagline of “Doing the most good.” I have a true admiration for the founders of the Salvation Army and am thankful for much of their work today. However, I believe there’s a difference between doing the most good and doing the right good.
Few Christians would argue that the gospel of forgiveness, salvation and redemption is at the base of all good. To preach that good news is certainly to do good. Yet, the Spirit “prevented” the apostles from just that. In obedience to God’s direction, they passed by people to whom they could have preached the good news! Why? Because it wasn’t the right good to do. Wrong time? Wrong people? Wrong place? We don’t know. All we know is that in this instance, it would have been wrong to do the all the good you can to all the people you can.
They passed by doing what all would think good to do. Preach the gospel. What they couldn’t see is that as they bypassed Phyrgia, Galatia, and Mysia, there waited a lady named Lydia, a demon possessed slave girl, an earthquake and a midnight prison break that would spark a fire of revival throughout Macedonia.
We should learn from this. Past the most good you want to do but shouldn’t, is the right good you should. And that’s the good that makes the difference God intends.
Catherine Booth was right. There is a great reward in doing good. But the greatest reward is not in helping the most poor. It’s in glorifying God. And if your desire to help others exceeds your desire for Him, you’ll miss His mission for you only to find yourself doing the most good instead of the right good.