The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading


Doing good has a dark side

Doing good is in style. From the shoes we wear to the causes we support, there is a renewed emphasis on serving, giving, and going. We wear bracelets. We sign petitions. We attend conferences. We volunteer. 

A movement of doing good is gaining momentum and a growing number of people are putting their faith into action by responding to local and global needs. It’s inspiring to observe or take part in.  

But doing good can have a dark side.

For virtually my entire life, I have been actively involved in ministry. I have participated in mission trips, volunteered locally and abroad, and worked full time in international development. And I’ve noticed something alarming.

I have seen friends and mentors serving sacrificially, doing extraordinary work for Jesus. But despite their dedication, things went wrong. Burnout. Infidelity. Loss of faith. Financial compromise. Breakdowns. And when I looked at my own life, I saw that even at the pinnacle of my good work, I desperately needed to discover a new way of doing good.

When I looked to Scripture, what I found troubled me. Men and women of God were just as likely to blow it as everyone else. Fuller Seminary professor Dr. J. Robert Clinton found that only one out of three biblical leaders avoided abusing their power or doing something harmful to themselves and others. Only one in three finished well.* 

In my zeal, I made service into the ultimate thing, opening myself to the spiritual dangers of doing good. And I’m afraid I’m not alone. The Church today is zealous, and we are doing great things. But my concern is that in doing great things for God, we will forget who we are in Him. 

Proverbs says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Everything flows from the heart—our motivations, our desires, and our good deeds. Without evaluating our motives, it is possible to love our service more than we love our Savior. It is possible to love working to see “thy kingdom come” without being in love with the King. It is possible to be so proud of all we’re doing for God that pride chokes our faith.

We must ask ourselves: Why do we serve? Unearthing the answer to this question may help us rediscover the true heart of service.

Reflection: Examine your motivations for serving. What seems self-focused?

*Clinton estimates that less than one in three finish well today. Dr. J. Robert Clinton, “Finishing Well—Six Characteristics,”  

Based on The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, by Peter Greer with Anna Haggard, published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group (, 2014. Used by permission.