When Good People Do Nothing

Edmund Burke said that, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Obviously, this applies to “good women” as well. As a side note, this is a thing I have – I object to the constant use of the word “men” with respect to all human beings.  It is just as easy to write “people” and it connotes everyone of both genders. For example, in the Greek language, the word “anthropos” is often translated into English as “men;” but indeed, it can also be used in a generic sense, as a “human being.” The term can refer to an adult male, or it is often employed to refer to a “person.” Consider our word anthropology, which is the study of humankind, of human society and culture, not that of the male species only.

Be that as it may, Burke is right to say that so much of human history has been a struggle between good and evil. Those people who appear to be “good” always seem to be outnumbered by those who appear to have “evil” intentions. Even today, the number of people who are willing to stand up for what is “good” and “right” seems to be dwindling. Fewer and fewer folks are advocates for what they believe to be right and true. Perhaps this is due a great deal to a society that is heavily influenced by social media and “pop culture,” where we need to watch every word (to be “politically correct”) and every action (to be “inclusive”) even to the outrageous extent as to cancel the culture of the past, because someone today is offended by events and words that happened a long time ago. We should learn from the past, not just annihilate it.

Burke suggests that when good people do nothing, they get nothing done. I think this is correct because “doing good” is more than thinking positive thoughts. It is an action — doing something radically different in an evil world. It is doing something about the evil and despair around us. God commands his people to “do good,” and this is a pattern throughout the Bible:

 “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Ps 34:14 and 37:27.

 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isa 5:20.

 “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Mt 7:17-20.

“A good [person] brings good things out of the good stored up in him [or her], and an evil [person] brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him [or her].” Mt 12:35.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Rom 12:9.

“…but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Rom 16:19.

“God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor 9:8.

 “Let us not to become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:10.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Php 1:6.

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” 2 Th 3:13.

 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Ti 3:17.

Thus, as followers of Christ, we are created and redeemed to do good. We are prepared, trained, corrected and taught (through the Scriptures!) how to do good. It is really God who is doing good through us, not we ourselves. God is actively involved in teaching us and helping us to do the good he wants us to do. This is not a solo effort on our part. We must allow the Holy Spirit to frame our minds to the correct template. In his power, we must actively oppose the evil.

However, we know that there will be opposition to our “good works.” Social media, in particular, stands in opposition to Christian values and motifs. Its influence on society has been detrimental to say the least. Some people misunderstand, and believe Christians to be “exclusive,” judgmental, snobbish and prude. Jesus said that “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18).  Peter told his congregation, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it be God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Pe 3:15-17). In the face of degradation and opposition in our society, too many churches and Christians do nothing. It is much easier to be innocent spectators and side-line critics. We complain loudly when evil wins, but perhaps it is our own apathy that contributed to the victory. “When good people do nothing, evil triumphs.”

If we do nothing, then we affect nothing. Our faith is impotent unless we stand up for the good of Christ. If we do not work for Christ, then we are working against him. In fact, if we do not obey the commands of Jesus, and seek to live in the righteousness that he has given us, we cease to be the “good fruit” in the world. If we are not the “light of Jesus” to the decaying world, then we are contributing to the growing darkness. May God help us.

Author: Judy

Christian educator, writer, specializing in the New Testament

2 thoughts on “When Good People Do Nothing”

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