A particular proverb has been rattling around in my brain for some time. It’s one of those bits of wisdom that has a way of sinking down and taking hold in my heart.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act,” (Proverbs 3:27).
Nineteen words. Twitter-worthy at fewer than 140 characters. Limitless in application. Truly, I don’t believe I could ever exhaust the application of this short snippet. Here’s how this verse has been provoking me lately.
1. I have the power to do good.
I have almost unlimited potential to do good. The problem for me is when I begin to substitute “heroic” for “good.” I don’t have many opportunities to help elderly ladies across the street, pull children out of burning buildings, build hospitals, or make grand public gestures. But, I can remember to ask my friend how his grandmother’s health is. I can take the time to get to know the people around me and take a genuine interest in them. I can lend my help to carry furniture for my new neighbor. I can give a generous tip, open my house to guests, or buy a sandwich for someone who is hungry.
2. The good I might do is due to more people than I might initially imagine.
The homeless woman who sits outside of Starbucks every day. The coworker who treats me with less respect than I believe I deserve. The neighbor kid who is spreading dandelion seeds in my back yard. The single mom who is serving me at the restaurant. My boss. My family. Who deserves respect? I can tell you that there are many more who do deserve respect than there are who do not. I go wrong every time I glibly assume someone isn’t worthy of my respect. And, I miss opportunities to bless and encourage them.
3. Sometimes it isn’t in my power to act; but most of the time it is.
I easily become overwhelmed in the fact of others hardships. I routinely think, “What could I possibly do to help? Their needs are so much greater than I have the capacity to impact.” When I look around and see problems, there’s something very important I’m not seeing: people. I might not be able to reverse a social injustice, but I can be kind to a woman who is oppressed. I might not be able to reverse someone’s financial slide, but I can buy him lunch. I simply can’t continue to write off opportunities to do good for people because problems are too daunting.
As uncomfortable as it might be, I hope God continues to rattle my cage with this verse. I’ve passed up so many opportunities in my lifetime. I don’t want to let them continue to slip by without giving them a second thought.
What about you?
Do you recognize that you have the power to do good? How broad—or narrow—is your perception of whom you might impact? And, have you failed to realize when it is in your power to act?
May all of us realize that we have the power to do good!