The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good



God has a pattern of using people who are deeply aware of their inadequacies, from Mary to David to Paul. This is really good news as we come to an understanding of how our selfishness impacts our service. It’s a sign of health when we recognize that even our most glorious moments of service are tainted by selfish motives.

Saul experienced a powerful wake-up call. Blinded on the road to Damascus, a self-reliant Saul suddenly had to ask for help. For Saul to become useful to the cause of Christ, he had to realize his desperate need for an undeserved gift.

Even after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul struggled with his selfishness, pride, and sin. Calling himself the “worst” of sinners, he realized that although God forgives us by His grace, we still need to discipline ourselves.

There are no shortcuts to fully living for Christ. This is a battle. To return to Proverbs, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23). Prayer, worship, meditation, Scripture memory, and fasting are all part of nurturing the inner life of our hearts.

More than anything else, we must remember this—good things apart from God are a threat to knowing our Creator. Without God, we can do nothing. But in this upside-down Kingdom, we find strength through our weakness: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Our message to Christ-followers who want to go beyond a lukewarm faith is this: Let’s not tire of doing good. But let’s remember why we serve. Ultimately, it’s a response to the most radical generosity we could ever experience. It’s not to gain leverage over God. It’s not for the purpose of making a name for ourselves or creating a successful organization. It’s out of a heart posture of gratitude to a God who knows we aren’t perfect, who recognizes that we are a mess, and who loves us anyway.

Reflection: Doing good things apart from God is a spiritual threat to a growing relationship with Him. How can you commit to doing good for the right reasons?

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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.