is a good deed for a bad reason still good?

So I got into a conversation with a few non-denominational friends a little while ago and I wanna see what you guys think. We were on the topic of idolatry and talking about how it’s wrong and selfish to help someone or do good if it’s for monetary value (money, food, etc.), but that you should do it knowing that by doing good, you will be working towards a higher spot in heaven because God will look favorably upon your actions.

The question I have is that they were saying that although it is a good thing to help others or do something good, if you are doing it for some monetary and for selfish reason then it is bad because you have the thought of a reward in mind for doing such actions, making it a good deed but with a bad premise. If you were to do something good or help a person out with the thought of being looked favorably on by God, is this not a selfish act as well? It might not be for anything that we can use here on earth or anything but it’s still the idea of receiving a reward. Is this not a good deed but with a bad premise as well? Is the only true good that someone can do be invoked simply by you doing it for the love of your fellow humans and doing something because it’s the right thing to do?

I appreciate any responses back to my question. Thank you and God bless!

Hi Jearbear,

at first when I saw the title of your post, I was confused, as I thought you were talking about doing something good that also has a bad effect and the whole doctrine of “double effect” which I would not have been expert enough to explain.

But I realized you are talking about something different… you are talking about doing good deeds that really have only good effects (ok, one might argue that everything has so many different effects that we can’t say that, but you know what I mean).
So, for example, somebody asks you for help and promises you a material reward for it, and you do it for the material reward and not for the sake of helping itself…

(Hm, just thinking now, does this not often get so mixed togehter that mostly we do it for both reasons?)

Ok, now some considerations and thoughts I have/had on the topic:

  • Let’s take a social worker who helps people in difficult situations for a living,t hat is, gets a salary for it. Does that make his/her helping bad?
    Of course, ideally the social worker would also do it from the heart, love helping people - that is why/he she chose that job. But he (I mean he/she but don’t want to write both every time) is also getting paid for it. And if he didn’t get paid, he would have to get another job, because he has to live from something too. Again, it gets all mixed up.
    I don’t think the social worker does something bad because he is also getting paid for it.

  • maybe it can be seen more on a scale of GOOD and BETTER than on a scale of bad and good?
    That is, doing something for a reward might be LESS good than doing it only out of love, but that doesn’t make it bad.

  • It depends on the situation though.
    Let’s look at a hypothetical example:
    Your old neighbor lady is asking you for help carrying up her heavy groceries to her oaprtment on the 5th floor.
    Now there are some possible variants:

  1. you immediately do it out of love, without thinking about getting a reward, glad to help:
    VERY GOOD :slight_smile:
  2. You know that she will probably give you something for it (some money, chocolate, whatever), and you gladly do it ALSO looking forward to that reward: I don’t think that would be bad, just maybe not quite as noble as number one
  3. you say to her: “Only if I get paid for it.” Now THAT I would think would be rather rude and morally not very good. But again, it depends on the situation. If you jokingly say to her (if you knwo her well): Will I get some candy for it again? and do it no matter what she says, then I wouldn’t really call that bad.
    Or if you yourself have a really bad back, for example, but at the same time a financially very very bad situation and are starving, and you say to her: “Dear lady, I really shouldn’t, it might make my back worse, but if you would be so kind and help me also in excahnge with some food as I am starving and out of money, I would try hoping that the food will also strengthen me again afterward.”

And there is also an exampe where it would be NOT good even though you don’t do it for money:
4. you grab her gorceries, mumble something about how stupid you think she is that she lives on the fifth floor and that it is really for the last time, “here you go and just know that it will probably hurt my back!” and then leave her there… (I think that would be even ruder than asking for a reward. :wink:

Hope this helped.

Just my humble thoughts.

A good deed cannot be done for a bad reason.

Self interest is not a bad reason to do a good deed. Read all of Matthew 25 and be assured by Jesus that good deeds will be rewarded, and not doing good deeds will be our own undoing.

to me it goes like what Jesus said: “those already had their rewards” the same way a guy who works in a job they hate just for the money, deserves it if they did a good job.

now if you use God for selfish reasons I would say it would be sinful, but otherwise, it is just that you are chosing a lesser reward.

well, that is leaving pride besides, like if you did something for being prideful.

God would like us to help people out of love more than for some reward, but helping out to get a better place in heaven still has some goodness in it. It is just not as good as doing it totally out of love. You know the people you really love. You do a lot of stuff for them not to impress God but because you love them. You want them to be as happy as possible. So we should constantly strive to love everyone as much as God does. We can get to heaven without attaining that perfection. The closer we are to that perfection, the more we will be rewarded in heaven.

Wanting a higher place in Heaven is not selfishness on your part. If you did something charitable merely for some monetary gain or for some increase in popularity without caring about the other person, then that would be different. If you sin by doing something “charitable,” your deed is bad. If your intention, means and end of a deed are all good, then your deed is a good one. God bless you.

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