Forget Your Good Deeds; Remember Others’ to You

I’m at the age where the Lord gives me small glimpses of Heaven.

The message on Facebook last evening came from a classmate of one of my sons. They graduated from high school nearly 30 years ago, so the event he refers to happened that long ago.

Matt said, “When I finished high school, I wanted to go to college but didn’t have the money. You paid for my first semester and bought my books.”

I have no memory of any of this.

He said, “But I goofed off and did poorly, and wasted your money.” He was apologizing.

Matt went on to say later he got his act together, went back to school, and received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and is doing well in life.

He said, “Squandering your gift has bothered me all these years.”

I assured him he had not squandered it, that it would appear the incident taught him lessons not available in classrooms, making it money well invested.

I added that I’m sorry he has felt poorly over this because in truth, I have no memory of it at all.

Later, I wondered if I should have told him that. Does he think he was unimportant to me? (I barely knew him even then. As I recall, Matt did not go to our church.)

A minister named Randy once told me something his father did. I said, “That is the most perfect recipe for misery I can imagine.” Here’s what he did….

Randy’s father kept a small notebook with him. Every time he did a good deed for someone, he took out the book and made a record of it. The book never left his person.

Now, to give him his due, Randy’s dad did not keep an account of the wrong things others had done to him. That would have been awful, and a strict violation of I Corinthians 13:5.

What Randy’s father was doing was maintaining a record of debts others owed him.

Since I did not know the man, and Randy told me this many years ago, I do not know what explanation the gentleman would give as to why he kept the book, or what he did with it. The fact that he merely kept it, however, says volumes about him.

Do not keep records of what you have done for others; God will do that for you.

Imagine this: at the high school football game, every time a certain running back takes the ball and gains a few yards, as soon as the play is whistled dead, he jumps up, runs off the field, then jerks a small book from his back pocket and makes a notation of how many yards he gained. At the end of the game, he adds up all the gains and losses and thus knows how he did.

A complete waste of time, isn’t it?

High up in the stands sits someone with ledgers and binoculars and pens. He keeps watch over every detail of the game, over every gain and every setback. When the game ends, he will report on what each player did. No player has to keep his own record.

“So, how are you doing in the game of life?”

The right answer (but not one anyone actually gives) is: “I’m still on the field. The Great Scorekeeper will issue the report on my performance at the end of the game.”

What you want to remember are the good things others do for you. Never ever forget them.

Let me tell you about something I once forgot.

At the end of 1970, I gave my resignation from pastoring Emmanuel Baptist Church of Greenville, Mississippi, and made plans to move to Jackson to join the staff of the First Baptist Church. A week or so before our move, a neighboring pastor, James Richardson said something to me.

“Joe, would you be offended if I were to offer you some of my old suits? I’ve bought some new suits and have several I’ll not be needing any longer.”

Offended? Are you kidding? I was thrilled. Dr. Richardson, pastor of the FBC of Leland, MS, was not only the nicest man on the planet, but also the sharpest dresser.

He gave me seven of the finest suits you’ve ever seen. And unless my memory is failing me, they did not even need altering, but fit perfectly.

In Jackson, one of our church secretaries told her husband (who reported it to me), “Phyllis says Joe is the best dressed one on the staff.”

How could I ever forget such a gift?

But I did.

I thanked James Richardson, I’m sure (we’re talking about over 40 years ago now). But at some point, the memory of that went away.

When did it bob to the surface in this scatter-brain of mine? Only when he retired.

By that time, James had put in 15 years or more pastoring the FBC of Madison, MS, just north of Jackson. We had remained close friends through the years, and I treasured the relationship with him and Cissa and their adult children (their sons, Jay and Gary and Ian, have served the Lord in the Magnolia state for decades).

I was one of the speakers at Dr. Richardson’s retirement. In reflecting on his ministry and the ways God used him, suddenly I remembered this amazing gift he had made to me all those years earlier. I was ashamed at having forgotten it, and told the story to his congregation at the retirement.

You and I owe so much to so many. And to be sure, many of them we know nothing about. They labored behind the scenes, paid for scholarships we received without knowing our benefactors, sent up prayers on our behalf unbeknownst to us, and spoke a good word about us to some church that was looking for a leader.

We did not know about it, but God did. He sees and knows, He cares and records. And He will repay.

God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering. (Hebrews 6:10)

Let us not grow weary in well doing.

But let us not keep an account of our well doing, leaving that to the Father, who rewards far better than we could ever ask, expect, or want.

Let us do our good deeds for others and then be off, not looking back.

As for the blessings others do for us, we do well to retain them in our minds and hearts. Doing so will keep us humble and grateful (two of the finest character traits in the entire pantheon of virtues), and will motivate us to bless others.

“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

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