One of the books I am currently reading is Walden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry Thoreau. I have read the first few chapters several times since I was a teenager. Walden was my inspiration to study philosophy, in which I have a bachelor degree. When I left Air Force Basic Training and went to Lowry Air Force Base for technical training, my mother mailed me a box of essential items, which I had prepared before I left home months before. She added Walden to the box. When I called her on the telephone and thanked her for adding that book to the box, she replied, “I thought you might need it.” That showed me that my mother knew me very well, and it made the book even more important to me.
I just read Mr. Thoreau's thoughts on philanthropy. He said that he was not very good at it. He realized that there were those that truly were good at philanthropy, and he was glad that they had that as their calling in life. I got the feeling that he viewed most people that professed the benefits of engaging in philanthropy to be nothing more than busybodies. In response to people that say we should set out with the intent to do good, Mr. Thoreau said that we should set out with the intent to be good. That got me thinking.
It is easy to do good. It is easy to know you have done good. It is easy to show others that you have done good. It is easy for others to know that you have done good. If you are seeking the praise of others, doing good is an easy way to reach your goal. When you receive that praise, you have your reward (The Gospel According to St. Matthew 6:1-4).
The author of The General Epistle of James taught that faith without works is dead (The General Epistle of James 2:20). I assume that he meant good works; therefore, we must do good. Jesus taught that we should do our good works without fanfare or self-promotion. We must do good, but we should do so without seeking the praise of men.
I think many people confuse doing good with being good. Doing good and being good are far from the same quality. It is quite easy to do good without being good. A murderer, while traveling to the home of the intended victim, may stop to save the life of a child. The murder has done good, but is not good (if I may be so bold as to pass judgment on a murderer). I think it is impossible to be good and not intend to do good. The intent to do good would be in the very nature of a person that is good.
It is not easy to be good. It is not easy to know if you are good, and the very quality of being good would probably include such humility that you would never feel that you were good. There is no way to show others that you are good, and the humility associated with being good would prevent the attempt to demonstrate your goodness. There is no way for others to know that you are good, as goodness is a purely internal quality. The reward for being good will come from a loving Father in heaven that knows all and sees all.
It is important to do good, but it is better to be good. If we are good, we will strive to do good. We will never know, in this life, if we are good; therefore, it must be a goal towards which we constantly strive. When we stand before the Judge Supreme on that day of final reckoning, He will tell us if we achieved the goal, and His judgment will be perfect and our reward will be just.
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