The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden. (1 Timothy 5:24-25)
What a great verse!
I tried to break down Paul’s words and distinguish between the progression of bad deeds and good deeds. But ultimately, I decided I was being over analytical. I think Paul’s message is very simple: our deeds cannot be hidden, whether people hear about them before they meet us, or after we are gone.
One thing that does occur to me is the phrase “even worse” and also “even better.”
If a man is guilty of a sin and is convicted in court, his evil act will be remembered, but his reputation may be spared. Charles Colson is a good example of someone who was convicted of a crime, but had a positive impact on our world through a transformed life.
On the other hand, sometimes the reports that don’t make it to court in time for the conviction destroy a man’s reputation forever. A crime is bad, but a life of sin that continues to eat away at a man’s legacy is “even worse.”
But the good deeds that are discovered after a man is already recognized for his goodness are “even better.” I have conducted many funerals where I have shared two or three key characteristics of the departed that blessed the lives of others. And on more than one occasion a friend has approached me afterward and said, “You know, you were right about that. Let me tell you another story about the very same thing…”
My father has been dead almost two years now and every now and then I read or hear about someone whose life was blessed by his ministry. I have yet to hear anything that eats away at the legacy he left me. Oh, a few people like to laugh about some of his funny habits, such as singing one or two lines of a hymn at the top of his voice and reading his sermon notes through the rest. And my dad spoke his mind, so I thoroughly expect to meet someone at some point who didn’t like something he said. But his legacy remains in-tact. It is “even better” than before.
I have been thinking: the good things I do that people appreciate make me feel good about myself, but the good that is hidden until later will cause my loved ones to feel good about me as well as themselves. That’s the way legacy works.
I am not suggesting I do good deeds so others will appreciate me. It feels good to be appreciated, but ultimately I do what I do because it is the right thing to do, and because I represent the Lord in everything.
It is just good to keep these connections in mind. Sinning makes us feel bad about ourselves, and gnaws away at the memory we leave our loved ones. It is “even worse.” Good deeds do the opposite. I think I want to live the “even better” kind of life.
Dear God, help me think about the legacy I am leaving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.