Good Works and Holy Troublemaking

Not long ago, Mark Driscoll tweeted:

No one gets in trouble for good works, you get in trouble for good works and for talking about Jesus.

While I understand the point that Driscoll was making, it got me thinking.  I sometimes wonder if the true reason that our society (corrupted as it is by greed, violence, and systemic injustice) is not bothered by Christian attempts to do “good works” is that our “good works” are largely unthreatening to the status quo.  What if “good works” that do not get you in trouble with a deeply fallen world are not “good” enough?  Perhaps the church needs to re-think its strategy for holy troublemaking, going far beyond making controversial or exclusive statements.

To begin with, we need to avoid undermining the church’s social significance by privatizing & individualizing both sin and good works.  As I read Scripture (Micah, for instance), it seems that God is often much more concerned with larger political sins such as economic injustice and oppression than the individual sins focused on in many congregations.  Would it surprise someone who goes to the average evangelical church that God wasn’t upset with Nebuchadnezzar for neglecting his quiet time and using foul language, but for ignoring the poor and practicing injustice (Daniel 4:27)?  Thankfully, there is a noticeable shift in the evangelical church for a greater emphasis on social justice.  However, I’d like to suggest that if our efforts at social justice aren’t causing any trouble, we need to re-think our strategy.

If I were to offer a riff on Driscoll’s tweet, it might look like this:

No one gets in trouble for feeding the poor, you get in trouble for going after the powers & systems that create & sustain poverty.

See the difference?  (Note: It’s even still under 140 characters, leaving room for a creative and witty hashtag.)  Here’s an example: many Christians “feed the poor” (or more likely, donate to an organization that claims to do so) and yet still support companies and political policies that create and sustain poverty and abuse through low wages, poor health care, and child slavery.  This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer was getting at when he said:

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.

I have a hard time believing that if Christians took seriously the call to “drive a spoke into the wheel (of injustice) itself” that we would be able to stay out of trouble.  I get verbally abused for even suggesting that Christians should be more non-violent in a world of constant war, so I can’t even imagine what would happen if you seriously went after other idols like Mammon. (For instance, what trouble might a local pastor get in for faithfully speaking to Christians who live in extravagant wealth in a world that is starving?).

Can you think of any other ways that the church has bandaged the “wounds of victims” while still continuing to sustain the systems that create those victims in the first place?  Why do you think this is?  What might be the way forward?

2 thoughts on “Good Works and Holy Troublemaking

  1. These quotes by Driscoll and Bonhoeffer really got me to thinking. The whole racial injustice that has powerful leaders (we all know them) who love to keep the negro back in the slave days. Not picking on the colored people but this is a bandaid as I see it in America. There are those whose livelyhood depends on keeping the colored people in bondage. The USA bandaids this. We dont confront the baby making machines of the slums and no show daddies. We need a spoke in that wheel. The question is what can I do about it? Or better yet, what does God want me to do about it. I was born and raised in Houston. I left for 35 years to Alaska and Montana. Served during the Vietnam War. The folks in places up in the Northwest were basically white. And the colored people that I did run across did not resemble in personality the colored people I knew in Houston. Its like they had not heard that they were still in slavery. The acted free. I would say, If you walk with GOD, He will show you that he sees no color. He sees no need to call you African American, Mexican American, Anglo American. why? cause its dumb. I speak as a representative of the Heintz 57 race being that my grandfather was half Cheeroke, and my other Grandad was from Scotland. I dont see much value in marching on the hill for the Heinz 57 Race. Why? Cause its dumb. God loves people, not colors. So if He is in me, that will be my nature.

    My least favorite times at church is all the applauding of this group or that group, people are asked to stand up and be recognized. That always gives me the creeps when I know that Christ is the only one worthy enough to stand up and cheer for. When you really think about it, it is again self serving and kinda makes me spit up a little in my mouth. Probably a political thing to make sure people have enough Atta Boy treats to make them feel special. As the church, should we encourage, of course we do, but standing ovation clapping and cheering cause you served 20 years in the nursery. Just dont see it. Human brains dont do well with fluffing up. It causes all kinds of issues. We do things for GOD simply because thats who we are. We are HIs workmanship. HIS. He is applauded. Kingdom vision is about the Kingdom…HIS Kingdom, not some little niche in a study group I was able to contribute to. While it is good to serve the LORD, the need to be cheered on like a Rock star is not. We do best by losing ourself. James says that God resists the proud. But gives grace to the the humble. So we humble ourselves.


    1. Stan,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that there are large racial issues in our society that have largely been swept under the rug. I also agree that the church must be the example of how to progress past these divisions and live in unity. I share your intuition when it comes to churches seemingly celebrating divisions – you won’t find this at my church! 🙂



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