Somewhere, St. Paul writes that if we see something good that should be done, and if we don’t do it, we’re sinning.
I see lots of good things that I should do, but I cannot do everything that I would even want to do.
At one level, he seems to be restating the general principle of the old covenant, which had both positive and negative commands – do this, don’t do that.
do I have to jump in front of the gunman and take his bullet, for example? Does it prove anything if I do or don’t ? I give money to one homeless man, but there’s 10 behind him. I get twenty appeals for various charities each week – do I just conduct a small lottery to determine the winner? or, do I just send each of them $1, until I run out?
You do your fair share. You do what you can in a way that doesn’t leave you too broken to keep going the next day. You do what seems a reasonable amount without making your own life a misery.
I mean you do a bit. Then you carry on. You leave stuff for others to do too.
It’s sort of like when you garden. You cut out a plot that’s a reasonable size. You tend it for a reasonable amount of time each week. You keep an eye on the weeds. And fertilize. And water. But all in moderation.
But the key is always to pick a plot that’s a reasonable size. No one ever decides to knock down their own house in order to make room for a garden the size of their entire lot. I mean that’s a place usually too big to manage anyway.
So you’re not expected to uproot your whole life to hand out twenties until you’ve got to pretty much get in line behind the guy who took your last bill. You just hand out the first one. Then you’re done. Time for the next guy to do his bit.
James 4:17 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
James is speaking about what is specific to the individual. If God has revealed to you something that is right for you, then you have an obligation to be obedient. You are right, there are many good works, but not all of them are YOUR works to do.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10** For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.**
God has prepared good works for each one of us to do. We are to walk in these works. They are not just “something good that should be done” but the ones that are specifically prepared for us.
Here is another important principle:
29"For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." Col. 1:29
If we are exhausted physicallly and materially from giving, it is likely that we have strayed beyond God’s intention. St. Paul makes it clear that it is God’s mighty power that is at work in us that enables us to strive. When we go beyond what the Spirit has called us to do, we are going under our own power and most likely will get burned out. We are to give and labor "according to His power’, not ours.
Generally God gives us a heart for the ministry to which we are called. This is not to say that we are sometimes called to do good works that we would rather not, but it is for us to pray and ask the HS to lead us to those good works that God has prepared beforehand for us.
If God convicts you in your heart and conscience that this is His will for you, you should do it. Read about Maximillian Kolbe.
The purpose of our good works (in addition to serving the needs of others to promote the Gospel) is to perfect our faith. If we are doing all kinds of good works, and it is not improving our relationships with God and others, something is wrong.
Don’t give money to homeless people. Give it to St. Vincent de Paul, and let them figure out who needs it most.
Give them food or clothes if you are inspired to do so. I keep protien bars in the car to hand out to hungry looking people.
No. Pray and wait until you are led by the HS. If you want, put any $ you have in a Christmas or Vacation certificate of deposit until you have discovered God’s direction.
I take the contents of a lot of those appeals to the Church and leave them in case others can benefit.