Carrollton, GA – July 1999 – I am sitting on the law firm’s front porch after surviving the first year of law school with my mentor, Gerry Word. Gerry is the best criminal defense attorney in west Georgia and perhaps the state. As I eagerly listen to him describe how to properly conduct various hearings, he suddenly tells me, “Jason, remember that while the phrase ‘no good deed goes unpunished’, will seem to apply many times in your future, do not ever cease assisting others. To do so will bring dishonor upon you and this profession. While you must discern who to help and who to stay away from, God does not punish you for performing good deeds.”
August 1999 – I am wrapping up my work and preparing to go back for that enjoyable second year of law school… Before I leave, I am still thinking about what Gerry told me a month before.
Being naïve, stubborn, and inexperienced, I just have to test this theory. A man comes into the office crying because his son is in jail. He asks Gerry for help. I ask Gerry if I can help with this endeavor. Gerry looks at me cautiously and says, “Sure. But, he has not hired me yet.” I respond by telling him that I still want to help and that he will pay for our service. Gerry just smiles and allows me to do the “grunt work” in getting this boy out of jail.
Two Days Later – As the boy is released on bond, I am excited because we helped someone in trouble and his father promised to pay Gerry that day.
But, the father does not show up that day and disappears with his son. I am angry and mainly embarrassed that I failed to contribute financially to the firm. I expect that Gerry will come into my office any minute with words of disapproval of my work.
Instead, Gerry calls me into his office. I am sweating bullets. He simply smiles and says, “Jason, the father did not hire us after we performed a good deed. I knew this would happen and I am glad that it did.”
What? Why would he not be disappointed in me? He clearly answers this question without me having to ask. He says, “I sensed that you did not understand when I told you that the principle of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ will seem to apply many times in the journey you have chosen. You needed a negative experience like this before you become a lawyer. But, do not ever stop seeking to help others just because you feel ‘punished’ when a negative consequence occurs. With time, you will gain the wisdom to discern who to help and who to stay away from. I am proud of you.” I needed to hear those last five words more than anything at the time.
While I am a Christian, I am not a saint and have made a number of mistakes throughout my life. I am certain that I will make mistakes in the future although I pray that they will be few and far between. But, as of today, I am grateful that I have not lost my desire to lessen the pain of others.
As I have mentioned many times, I am not a formally ordained minister. I do not have any formal training in Christian theology. I have the highest respect for those who give their lives to the ministry. Many ministers have helped me overcome the challenges of life.
However, years ago after encountering an extremely rare situation where an ordained minister with self promoting accolades started committing crimes and finally became the essence of evil, I realized that no one is excempt from the temptation to sin. This experience freed me to express my Christian views.
Jesus Christ set countless examples of doing good. Christ had compassion upon the sick and the outcasts. He physically touched the untouchable leper and healed him. Jesus caused the lame to stand, showed love to sinners, and raised the dead to physical life.
All of these acts were acts of good. But, they did not go unnoticed.
The Pharisees in the Roman Province of Judea highly disapproved of Jesus. They felt threatened by His good deeds because their authority was undermined by Jesus’ focus on God’s standards of service and compassion; not their standards. It was as if Jesus placed a target on Himself by performing so many good deeds.
Jesus was eventually arrested although he had not committed a crime. Within two days, he was executed by order of the weak and resentful Roman Governor of Judea; Pontius Pilate.
We, too, have sacrifices to make. While we must discern who we need to help and who we do not, we have to stand up for what is right and just. We must do the things no one else wants to do without fear of being labeled, mocked and ridiculed. Doing good deeds, serving others, doing good to those who will never return the favor, and stepping up even when it comes with a price is what’s expected of us.
Can anyone ever perfect the above expectations? No. We are not expected to be perfect. Only one has lived a perfect life. But, amidst our mistakes, sins, and transgressions, we are expected to focus and strive to be more like Jesus every day.
So, is it true that “no good deed goes unpunished?”. From a human perspective, the answer is yes because we risk suffering when helping others.
But, from a Godly perspective, the answer is no because the suffering that comes with doing the right thing is honorable and aligned with God’s will for us.