The Dark Side of Doing Good


Can a life of helping, of doing good for others, of serving the greater good all be worthless? Can such a life even be doing us harm? Is there a spiritual danger in doing good?

Peter Greer, who is the President and CEO of HOPE International, has written a book titled The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good. I bought the book some weeks ago and took advantage of a three and a half hour flight couple of days ago to get a good start on reading what Greer has to say. I finished reading the book in the first half hour of the return flight last night.

I’ve found the book to be a bit like some meals I’ve had. It’s very easy to ‘consume’ but I suspect it’ll take quite a while longer to digest. By that, I mean that while it’s not a long read, and it’s written in a very easy to read style, it deals with weighty matters that will take a while to fully process.

Greer talks about those who serve in some kind of ministry yet serve from wrong motives. Being flawed human beings I suspect that that would cover about 99.9 % of those in ministry at some time or another.

One of the tell tale signs is when we begin to make our work our master. In the book he speaks of those who throw everything into doing good of one kind or another yet neglect those who need them most.

According to statistics compiled by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, “Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked … and 50 percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.”

It is a very real problem that skewed priorities mean many don’t finish life well. Even looking at those heroes of the Scriptures we see a pattern of failure when those serving God lose sight of their true calling.

Greer spends a lot of time reminding us that we don’t have all the answers and that we really aren’t able to do much worthwhile …. in our own strength …. but that’s OK.

So accept that you’re inadequate. Embrace the fact that you’re needy. Don’t try to prove to God you’ve earned His favour. Let Jesus Christ flood your life with forgiveness, acceptance and love.

Peter Greer heads up an agency working in the developing world, helping release people from poverty, so I can certainly relate to what he has to say, but I would suggest that there are many who would benefit from reading his book. I reckon it should be absolutely required reading for anyone in full time ministry of any kind and I would urge anyone else who truly desires to walk humbly with their Lord to grab a copy. There is so much you’ll get from this book.

Through real life, relatable stories, humour, personal experience, and solid teaching, Greer gently leads the reader to more clearly see themselves and their own need for change. Far from presenting himself as the example we should all follow, Peter Greer shares his own brokenness and helps us relate to stumbling blocks that face us all.

You won’t feel like he’s using a ‘big stick‘ to make you feel inadequate, rather he provides relief from our own self imposed stresses and guides us towards a more Godly way forward. He doesn’t offer easy or fast answers but his direction towards a ‘better way’ is refreshing.

The chapters are short and engaging and each one ends with questions that help us focus on how to put principles into action. There is also a link at the end of each chapter which points to some stunning online resources which will help you get even more value from the book.

From his urging that we find some ‘3:00 a.m. friends‘ (those you can call at any time of the day to keep you accountable and stop you from doing something stupid) to giving us the tools to honestly face our own failures, Greer’s desire is obvious. He earnestly wants us to ‘finish well’. As someone who truly desires that but often gets tripped up along the way, I am truly thankful for The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good and I’m sure that I’ll return to it a number of times to continue gleaning the wisdom it offers.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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