Sunday July 7th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Galatians 6:7-10; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Working for the Good of All
The apostle Paul says in Galatians 6, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10 NRSV).
Whenever I think about doing good works, I’m reminded of the story of the boy scout who came home all banged up and bruised, with his clothes all torn and tattered. His mother asked him what happened, and he responded by saying, “I was trying to earn my merit badge by helping an old lady cross the street.”
“So why are you all banged up then?” his mother asked.
“Well, the old lady didn’t really want to cross the street!” he replied.
You know, it may have sounded like a good thing to help an old lady across the street, but if she didn’t want to go across the street then it wasn’t actually a good work.
Perhaps this is why Paul doesn’t say to “go out and do good deeds for other people,” but instead he encourages us to “work for the good of all.” It’s subtle, but I think it’s a significant difference.
You see, so often we do good things for other people because it makes us feel good (or look good). When we do this, we’re not really thinking about the other person and what they need or want. We’re merely thinking of ourselves. When we do this, we often end up hurting the other person, and sometimes (like the boy scout) we get hurt in the process too.
In contrast to this, the good works that the Apostle Paul would have us do are works that flow out of our relationship with Christ, because the Holy Spirit lives inside us. In the previous passage in Galatians, Paul lists the 9 “Fruits of the Spirit” — “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22b-23a). When the good works that we do flow out of the work that the Holy Spirit is doing inside of us, then they truly are works that are good “for the good of all” rather than just simply good works that makes us feel good.
…especially for those of the family of faith
And then Paul also goes on to say that we should “work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family [or household] of faith” (Galatians 6:9b).
Do you wonder why Paul adds this part? If we’re supposed to do good for all people, wouldn’t that obviously include other people who are Christians? Why does Paul emphasize that we should especially do good for those who are in our church (faith family)?
I think one reason is that when we think about trying to do good for all people, it can feel like such an enormous task that we can feel paralyzed. In our day and age when we have news from all around the world literally at our fingertips via our mobile devices, we can so often feel inundated with needs around the world that are crying out for our attention. It can feel so overwhelming that we don’t know where to start and so we don’t do anything.
By telling us to do good, especially to those of the family of faith, the Apostle Paul is giving us a starting point. He’s saying — start right here in the church! Do good whenever you have the opportunity, but start right where you are.
As the saying goes, “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed!”
We may not be able to help everyone in the world who has need, but as Paul said, we should work for the good of all whenever we have the opportunity. And we can start right here where we are, right here in the church.
Statistically speaking, however, it has often been pointed out that in most churches, 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work. Most of the work of the church is done by only a few select people.
But Paul isn’t just speaking to the leaders or the inner circle of the church in Galatia. Paul wrote this letter to be read in front of the whole congregation. And he encourages each and every one of them to work for the good of everyone in the church.
Jesus was also interested in seeing everyone get involved in the work of the Church. Jesus sent out all 12 of his apostles in pairs to proclaim the Kingdom in every town and village where he intended to go. And then as more and more people followed him, he sent out 70 disciples in pairs to go into every town and village to proclaim the Kingdom. And he told them to pray to the Lord of the harvest, that God would raise up even more workers into the harvest! (Luke 10:2).
The harvest truly is plentiful, as Jesus said, but the laborers are few. Jesus wanted everyone to get involved in the mission of the church.
And so this morning, I want to invite each and every one of us to get involved in doing the work of the church. I know that sometimes the needs in this world can seem so great and we can feel so overwhelmed that we don’t know where to start. But I’d encourage you to start right here, right where you are. There’s plenty of work to go around, plenty of good things to do.
Maybe you’re one of those people who do 80% of the work of the church. If that’s you, I’m not going to ask you to do more. But what I am going to ask you to do is to try to find someone to share the load with you, someone who you can train to do what you do, someone you could someday pass your responsibilities on to. None of us will live on this earth forever. So let’s train and pour into the next generation, so that the work of the church will continue on even after we’re gone.
But maybe you’re one of the 80% who don’t really have much to do around the church. Maybe you’ve been wanting to get involved, but you’re not really sure what to do. Maybe it seems like everything is already taken care of, and you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Or maybe you just have a lot going on in your life, and you don’t have the capacity to take on any more responsibilities.
I understand. I know that there are seasons in our lives when we may have more capacity to do more than at other times. I think that’s why Paul says “…whenever you have the opportunity.” The goal is not for anyone to burn out or take on more responsibility than you can bear. The goal is that everyone would flourish, that everyone would have the opportunity to operate in their gifts and passions, and that we would be able to find joy in serving the Lord together.
If you’re sick or homebound, or can’t make it out to church, please know that there are ways that you can be a blessing to those around you. Even just a smile or a kind word can brighten someone’s day. A handwritten note of encouragement, a card, or a phone call to a friend or family member can turn someone’s day around. So think of someone that you can bless today, and “whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all!”