The Salvation Army value ‘Do the Right Thing’ sounds straightforward, but unless we allow ourselves to be guided by a clear standard, it’s so easy to get things wrong.
As someone with a university education in a humanities faculty, from my first day of learning I was taught that right and wrong are subjective and we exist in a word of moral ambiguity. As a law student, I was taught the existence of a ‘natural’ right and wrong that transcends all belief and philosophy—a common ground everyone can inherently agree on. Yet despite this, there’s much debate around what form such natural right and wrong takes and how it actually looks.
Christians are fortunate to have a clear standard of how to live. It’s found in the life and teachings of Christ. Jesus provided the ultimate insight into how we should live, love and interact with others. We are further blessed to have the Holy Spirit constantly guiding or nudging us in the ‘right’ way as we navigate situations and interact with people.
We are called to live the ‘right’ way by doing the ‘right’ thing. At no point do I claim to have arrived in terms of doing things right all the time, but it is something I aim for. And I’m thankful we serve, worship and love a patient saviour who chooses to persist with us even when we get things wrong!
When it comes to understanding what it means to do the right thing, an important starting point is to acknowledge that God is the true owner of everything and is generous in allowing us some freedom to be stewards (or caregivers) of creation (Genesis 1:26–30; 2:15; Psalm 24). The Bible talks about how stewards have a certain level of expectation that they are faithful and can be trusted with what comes under their influence and control (1 Corinthians 4:2).
As part of being stewards of everything within God’s creation, we are blessed with resources of finances, talents, people and property. We’re expected to make responsible decisions in the way we look after these resources and act toward others. This mission value is therefore focused on how we behave in regards to these responsibilities, encourages us to do the right thing with the resources that God has put at our disposal.
In the book of Matthew (25:14–30), we are presented with an interesting parable that outlines something of God’s expectations around how we should use our gifts and resources. Three servants are given different amounts of money. Two of them invest the money and make a significant return, but one buries it. When their boss returns to find out what has come of his investment he is not impressed with the servant who did nothing and punishes him.
It can be hard for me to reconcile myself with this parable because I’m risk averse. On some level, I think it was smart for the third servant to ensure he didn’t lose his master’s money. But that is not the key message Jesus wants us to take from this parable. Jesus wants us to understand the fact that, like each of the servants, we’ve been blessed with skills, resources and opportunities that God doesn’t want us to waste.
Since God has ownership of everything and we are only stewards, we should act in a manner that sees us utilise resources for God’s purposes and glory, not squander them. Good stewards will feel a compulsion to do the right thing with all that God has given them.
I recently moved into a beautiful new flat in Wellington’s Island Bay. It has amazing views, but cops a fair whacking when those southerlies fly through.
One of the challenges in this new flat is our power bills. They have been increasingly going up, so I’ve been talking to my flatmates about being more power conscious. Now, I could let them cut down on power usage and not change my own behaviour, but that would not be the right thing and it wouldn’t show integrity. The greater challenge is leading through my own choices and behaviour, utilising our shared resources in a way that reflects character and discernment. This is the right thing to do.
Prior to arriving in Aotearoa, I went through a period of unemployment —a hard period of my life. One thing I had to come to terms with was tithing (giving to church) when I wasn’t getting an income. It was easy in my mind to not give and keep living as normal. I had to consistently remind myself that the money I had was all God’s first and that I needed to trust that God had my every provision covered. This was the right thing to do.
Working for The Salvation Army, I am constantly reminding myself that we need to be wise with the money that we have and use it in a way that ensures its maximum value. It’s easy to get caught up in an ‘entitled’ mentality and think we ‘deserve’ this or that, when really every resource is a blessing that needs to be treated wisely and with gratitude. Every camp, every work trip, every meeting is an opportunity to do the ‘right’ thing, to be wise in the use of our finite resources. This is the right thing to do.
On the flip side, doing the right thing also involves acknowledging when we have done wrong. I’m not perfect, and when I feel I haven’t done the ‘right’ thing with my gifts, talents or resources, I ask for forgiveness and try to remedy this. Sometimes, this involves placing myself in the shoes of those affected by my decisions and asking: ‘How would I feel if this decision had affected me?’
So, here are some key things we can do to make it more likely that we really will do the right thing:
• pray about every decision
• check out what God says in the Bible
• be intentional about who speaks into our lives—seek good advice.
That last point is an important one. Who around you is helping keep you accountable? Do you have people who encourage you to behave in the right way when it comes to your use of skills and resources, and in your dealings with people?
At work, I consult with teams and individuals to ensure good use of Army resources and that we give beneficial opportunities to empower people. I have a mentor back in Australia who keeps me in check to ensure my attitudes and behaviours reflect that of Christ. He will often suggest ways I can do things better or cut back on things that aren’t a good use of my time and efforts. Sometimes he asks questions that cut close to the bone but encourage me to be a better steward of all that God has entrusted into my life. All of this means I’m better placed to do the right thing.
I’ve been appreciating the informative reports that have been coming out about the Army’s Accountability Movement (http://accountability.salvationarmy.org). It’s great to see a priority is being placed on ensuring our Army structures are transparent and that we demonstrate integrity at every level.
I’m on a journey to continue to discover God’s will and leading for my life. Part of this involves exploring how to do what God wants in the ‘right’ way. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a place where I’ve reached the destination of always doing the right thing, but I’m comforted in the knowledge that God has this covered. I know that the more I become like Christ and surrender everything to him, the more confident I will be of doing the ‘right’ thing for God and others. Most of all, I’m humbled and blessed to know that God trusts us to do his will.
Ben Maxwell grew up in Australia. He works at Territorial Headquarters as Youth Programme Coordinator for The Salvation Army in New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.
by Ben Maxwell(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 17 June 2017, pp20-21
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.
Learn more about our Mission Plan & Values | www.salvationarmy.org.nz/MissionPlan