When Good Deeds End in Tragedy

Written by Drew on April 22nd, 2008

I received a strange call today from the sister of a young drifter I had become acquainted with a few weeks ago.  She had called to tell me that he had died.  It seems that he had hitched a ride with a guy who was bad news. This guy, along with his girlfriend and my friend, were headed for town when the police spotted them and gave chase.  Evidently, there was a warrant out for the driver’s arrest.  The chase ended badly when the car flew off an embankment and landed upside-down in a pond.  All three passengers must have been killed on impact.  There was no sign that any of them had tried to escape.

I got to know this young man through my work as a minister.  He had come by my office one day begging for food.  He had hitch-hiked down to Birmingham thinking he could find work, but when he arrived he discovered that jobs were scarce.  He’d been sleeping on a couple of plastic crates in the woods and collecting cans during the day to buy food.  Our church helped him with a few things–we bought him a few meals and helped him get into a trailer for $10 a night.  One of our deacons even found him a job.  He seemed interested in our church, and I was hoping he would study the Bible with me and obey the gospel.  He came to church one Sunday night and promised to return the following Wednesday.
He often said, “I’ve got my whole life in front of me.”  He was only nineteen.  Little did he know, that young life of his would end suddenly because of a bad decision.  He was killed before we had a chance to help him.
Any preacher can tell stories like this one.  We’re in a position where people feel like they can come and ask for help.  Most of them are freeloaders just looking for a handout.  You can get pretty calloused dealing with their kind several times a week.  But some people really do need help.  As hard as it might be to minister to them, the church must continue to try. 
I get pretty frustrated when I’m doing benevolent work.  At the same time, it puts me in contact with a cross-section of my community that I would never encounter otherwise.  That’s important.  Every person has a soul–even the ones who have made a mess out of their lives.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say with this post.  This is just one story in a chain of unhappy endings.  Maybe it’s my way of bringing attention to one of the most difficult Christian responsibilities.  When our best efforts end in tragedy, we must put our trust in God and keep trying, knowing that this work is not for our glory, but God’s: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).

7 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jason says:

    We have an important role to perform. Many need these same things in today’s society:

    (Matthew 25:31-46)
    Hungry -> Give food
    Thirsty -> Give drink
    Stranger -> Give a welcome
    Naked -> Give clothing
    Sick or in Prison -> Give a visit

    “I don’t want to be a goat… nope.”

  2. Ike says:

    Ours is not to question. Just keep on keeping on.

  3. ICURIS says:

    great thoughts….you’re right, it’s hard to keep doing good for others when it doesn’t seem to help.

    thanks for doing such a wonderful job at our gospel meeting Monday night. serious business: everyone was extremely impressed with your message. it’s encouraging to know that the gospel is being preached by you there in Leeds so effectively.

    keep up the good work,
    rick williams

  4. David Courington says:

    Sorry to hear of this tragedy. It is often hard for me to remember that we are trying to instruct those who “oppose themselves”. But of course, we have often done things that were not in our best interest, too.

  5. Joseph Pauley says:

    “Calloused” is the right word. I was finally relieved of some of this work by a deacon who has a good heart. I did find that people who were hungry and needed food would accept food. I’ve had people turn down food after saying they needed it because they wanted the money. People who really need help are often easy to spot.

  6. Matthew says:

    This is a great post, working in a small town you see a lot of people working the church system. You are right, we have helped and been used, and we have helped and God has used us to reach to people for the Gospel. Great thoughts.

  7. Ben Wiles says:

    I am reminded of Peter’s encounter with the man begging at the temple. Peter’s words have often guided me in situations like this.

    “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus, rise up and walk.”

    For us, benevolence has been a bridge to relationships, not just a money source to be taken advantage of. If a person is trying to walk, we’ll do whatever we can to help. But we will not let our desire to help enable destructive behavior.

    Interestingly, this philosophy has reduced the number of calls we get by over 90%. Hmmmm . . .

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