I wish I had $100 for each time I’ve been told, "You’re so good to adopt." I think I’d be able to pay for the adoption of our two girls from Haiti.
Maybe adoption is a good thing to do. After all, God commands us to care for the orphan (and no, that doesn’t necessarily mean adoption). I know that God called my husband and I to adopt as a means to expand our family.
But I don’t feel like a good person for pursuing adoption. I feel frustrated with the length of time it’s taking. I feel overwhelmed with the additional costs we’re surprised with. I feel helpless knowing that my children are in a country that’s being hit drastically by the rising costs of food. No, I don’t feel good right now, but I know all the negative things I’m feeling right now will be worth it once I have my girls in my arms on U.S. soil.
Hearing other people’s belief of my apparent goodness makes me reflect on the story of the rich young man found in the synoptic gospels. Mark 10:17-18 reads:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone."
Ponder that a moment. Jesus—God incarnate, the Son of God, the perfect and sinless one—wasn’t willing to be called good. If even Jesus, who would have been the epitome of "goodness" on earth, said that only God is good, then who can call anything or anyone good?
We call all sorts of things good. Our children are good when they behave. Our donations of time, money, or things to charities are good. We exclaim, "Thank goodness!" or "For Goodness Sake!" Campbell’s soup is "M’m! M’m! Good."
I have been reading the book of Isaiah and recently came across 64:6, in which the prophet writes, "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous [works] are like filthy rags." In the Hebrew, the term "filthy rags" can mean menstrual rags. Now that’s pathetic. All our good works are like Kotex to God. Period.
But I don’t think we should despair in this. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, the Apostle Paul writes:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
I agree with commentators who say the wood, hay, and straw with which we build are our impure motives that are not wholly for the glory of God. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t think of anything I do that doesn’t have a bit of me in it. These commentators also say our gracious Lord will find and reward us for the gold, silver, and precious stones. Those thing that glorified Him. Our pile of works that we considered good may go up in flame, but there will be something left for which we will be rewarded.
I take comfort in that, because I know I’m a sinful, fallen creature. I want to be good—a good that God can recognize—but I know I fail miserably and often.
I was recently convicted of this again by a five-year-old girl who likes to play with my four-year-old daughter. For various reasons, this neighbor is not someone I would choose to be my daughter’s regular playmate. However, any time we are outside, this child runs up the street to join us.
I believe this girl’s family is on hard times—emotionally and physically—and I gave the girl and her brother a few extra dollars for some candy bars they were selling. The next day, the girl said to me, "My brother says you must be an angel."
Really? I thought, very taken aback, and very glad this girl couldn’t read my thoughts about how I wish she’d go home. Wondering what I had said or done that made these children come to that conclusion, I asked, "Why?"
"Because you’re so nice," she replied.
Wow. An arrow straight to the heart. Yes, I helped them by giving them a couple bucks. Yes, I do let these kids come to our house to play even when I’m less-than-thrilled about it. But I envision these "good" works going up in smoke in a blazing bonfire before God. I’m glad our Lord doesn’t judge solely on motives.
Matthew 10:42 reads, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
If I display goodness—apparently even when my motives aren’t exactly right—I won’t lose my reward, because whatever good thing I have is from God (James 1:17). If I display goodness, I’m showing that I belong to Jesus and reflecting His light in the darkness. If I display goodness, I’m sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s reason to pursue it.
But I still wish I had that $100.