You may have seen the Liberty Mutual “Pay it Forward” commercial where people witness a “random act of kindness” and then do an act of kindness for a stranger. You can watch it using the link below.
I had not seen the “Life Vest Inside” campaign – a nonprofit dedicated to teaching, promoting and supporting acts of kindness as a remedy to bullying and hatred.
I thought this was a pretty cool campaign, and it got me to thinking about what Jesus said about the importance of doing good works, and the risks. Good works can draw other people toward God. They can also be a stumbling block for ourselves and others if we get wrapped up in taking credit for the good we did, or think that doing good = being good.
15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Mt 5)
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mt 6)
These two passages appear to be in tension, if not in direct contradiction. Should we let other people see our good works, or not? Part of our Lenten journey is to wrestle with these two ideas. If we don’t let others see the good work being done, then we are not setting an example for them to follow (1 Cor 11:1). Nor will we be able to join together with other people of peace, whatever their faith, spirituality or religion.
Our worth is rooted in God. It begins and ends with the reality that we are made in God’s image for relationships of covenant love with God, others, creation and self. We are beloved.
Even so, we are called to care for one another, both spontaneously, as these videos illustrate, and with intentionality, planning and great commitment. There was nothing random about God’s acts of kindness in Jesus Christ. During Lent let us explore how we might encourage both types of Good works, all for God’s glory. What might God be asking us to do? How might we serve those around us?