Meditations in Hebrews 13: 59. A Life of Goodness
Heb 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Don’t forget goodness: The second of what I have referred to as the Christian’s general outlook on life is seeing our life as a life of goodness. The words ‘good’ and ‘goodness’ come up so many times in the New Testament that we may take them for granted. Even the writer here says we might even forget to do good. How can such a thing be for a Christian? It has to be because we get so caught up with our own lives and the materialistic world in which we live today. He fact is that, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10)
Doing Good: Doing good is to be at the very heart of the Christian’s life motivated, no doubt, by the love on which are lives are based. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) i.e. our goodness should reveal God to the world around us.
Hang on to Goodness: The apostle Paul speaks of this in a number of ways, for example, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Rom 12:9) Note the call to ‘cling to’ what is good. This is not so much about doing as being. There is also a recognition that there is a battle going on and it is sometimes a struggle to hold on to good “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21) i.e. use goodness to counter evil in the world. But is will be a battle!
Do good TO PEOPLE: The call is in general to bless people and especially (perhaps because we have greater opportunity to do this) to bless fellow believers: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:9,10)
The apostle spells it out even more, do good to all around us, especially those who are weaker: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself” (Rom 15:1-3)
Even when Paul was talking about what was permissible in the Christian life he makes this call to consider the wellbeing of others: “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:23,24) He even adds his own testimony to strengthen this: “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Cor 10:32,33) Notice the double motivation in this: not only is goodness an expression of love in general, but our goodness can be a means of drawing others to Christ.
Various Applications: This doing good will appear in a variety of ways in our lives. For instance, the work of the Holy Spirit is always to glorify God AND to bless the Church: “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7) But it is not only in the Church, it is to be the world around us (if we haven’t taken that in yet from the above verses): “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.” (Col 1:10) But there are also various groups within the Church for whom there may be specific applications. First, women: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” (1 Tim 2:9,10) Second, there are the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Tim 6:17-18)
Indeed, the more we look, the more we find these references to goodness, for example, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16,17) The purpose of our reading God’s word, studying it, and preaching and teaching it is to produce good lives!
It even gets linked with the second coming of the Lord: “we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:13,14) i.e. when Jesus comes back he wants to find a people who are doing good.
Sharing: There is one word that we have not picked up on and it is the word ‘share’. Our starting verse had “And do not forget to do good and to share with others.” Also Paul’s word to Timothy about the rich was, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” We might expect such a teaching of those who are well off and have much to share, but our verse from Hebrews extends that to all of us. An expression of doing good is to share what you have with others, i.e. to bless them.
A Sacrifice: Now this may not come naturally, and so we find the writer closes this verse with, “for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” The word ‘sacrifice’ was also used in the previous verse in respect of praise but both these verses follow a section (v.10-12) which has a number of Old Testament references to worship. Today we no longer bring physical sacrifices or offerings but both praise (acknowledgement of God’s greatness) and goodness (the practical outworking of that praise to God’s world) are to be the ways we seek to bless the Lord so that “God is pleased”. His desire is that His world is a place of goodness, but since the Fall, it is a battle to reclaim that original world.