• Stephen Hill

Striving to do good produces rotten fruit

Trying to do good produces rotten fruit.

Contrary to what the religious experts tell us, living under Law will not lead to a morally blameless life.

In Galatians 5:19, there is a very interesting verse. Paul says:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these.”

This entire list, according to Paul, is the evidence of living under the Law.

This verse in Galatians 5:19 lists the ‘works of the flesh.’

What I want to point out is that approximately half of this list is made up of the fruits of doing good. Yes, you read it right – the fruits of trying to do good. What is listed here is not all the fruits of an evil and rebellious heart.

Half of what is listed here as “works of the flesh” come from the ‘good’ side of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yes – the good side.

Let me tease this out.

The evil works are quite obvious. We cannot deny that things like sexual immorality, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies and ‘the like’ (whatever that is) are ‘bad’ and wrong. These are the sort of sins that Church discipline committees get their bread and butter from. These are the kinds of moral failures that sell magazines and newspapers, feed Reality TV, and keep the gossipers occupied.

However, the items in the middle of the list – enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy – are the fruits of trying to do good.

When I am focused on trying to do good within the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, I am trying to impress God. This breeds in me a sense of achievement, and pride that I am better than others. It also breeds insecurity that others may be better than me. If it is my ambition to be good, and if I see you doing something better than me, I will get jealous of you.

Some of the worst civil conflicts in the world are in the most religious societies. Brutal violence is at its height where religion is the motivator. My own home country of Northern Ireland is a tragic example of this. So is the Middle East.

Conflict, strife, anger, fits of rage, envy, all come from believing that I am performing better at doing ‘good’ than the other person is. Therefore, I judge harshly where they seem to be failing or not living up to standard.

If the other person appears to be performing better than I am, it will lead to jealousy, envy, and rivalry.

If I have envy against someone, it is because I have an ambition in my heart to be better and more successful than they are.

Groups that are characterised by legalism are constantly divided among themselves, because someone are judged to be not good enough.

If your heart has jealousy, judgement, ambition, anger and division in it, it is because you are trying to be good.

Think about that.

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