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Paul Vadakumpadan, Guwahati says,
WHY DO GOOD WITH MEANS NOT SO GOOD?
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Guwahati, May. 3. I am surprised every time I read the story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5.  By modern standards they were by no means bad people.

I am surprised every time I read the story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5.  By modern standards they were by no means bad people. In many parishes if people offer even half a day`s income a month to the church, they are commended for it. Among certain Christian groups where tithing is a common practice, giving one-tenth to the church gets for the giver a certificate of excellence, a virtual canonization before death. Ananias and Saphira gave a substantial part of their wealth to the church. But they were punished and severely too. In fact with death. Incredible!

The land they sold was certainly their own. They could have done whatever they wanted with it. Even after selling it, the money they got was theirs. They were free to use it as they wanted. They were not obliged to offer all that to the church. So what was this very serious evil that they committed? Was it one of dishonesty? They could have easily avoided it by telling Peter they were giving only a part of their wealth.

I am inclined to believe that their sin was that while they professed to give everything, in fact they did not live according to that profession. It was a sin of deception. This story leads me to question some aspects of the way of life of persons who have made a similar profession. On the one hand they are committed to do good, following the gospel way. But in trying to do good, several are tempted to use means that are not in keeping with the gospel. So in doing good, they use means that are less than good. This sin saddens me more for its foolishness than for its wickedness. Let me prove my point with a few examples.

There are many cases of strained relationship among these good people, often precisely in the process of doing good. In trying to do good, they come into conflict with others who are also trying to do good. There is much goodness all around, yet it is accompanied by some evil, sometimes even serious, as in the case of Ananias and Saphira.   Part of it may be explained in terms of human nature, the so-called inevitable, the normal wear and tear. But when it goes beyond that and leads to a serious unhealthy situation, for example, fellow apostles not being even on talking terms, one wonders at the soundness of the whole endeavour. Is it a case of aiming at the unattainable maximum and reaching not even the minimum? Would that we had aimed a little lower and reached, in fact, a little higher! An example of the best being the enemy of the good.  

Moreover, not every type of service lends itself to the status of being a reasonable exercise of missionary service. For example, political involvement is an excellent way of influencing a society with gospel values. But such a course of action is not generally favoured, especially for priests and religious, simply because it is full of pitfalls. Theoretically it may look attractive, but practically it does not work out that way. This consideration applies not only to political activity. There could be other fields of service too with similar pitfalls. Even certain types of highly specialized activity, within the traditional missionary fields of education and healthcare, may fall in the same category. This may partly explain why the Christian quality of our service suffers. More pitifully, the Christian quality of those who do such service also suffers.  As the old saying has it, you cannot go fishing without getting your clothes wet.  

Jesus said, ``It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples`` (Jn 13:35). He prayed, ``May they all be one... so that the world may believe`` (Jn 17:21).  It is through unity of life and action that the Christian community witnesses to Jesus the saviour. That is the basic mission methodology Jesus taught. For Him, what matters is not so much what you do but how you do it. In the cases mentioned above, it goes exactly to the other extreme. What matters is what you do, not how it is done. We even have people ready to break basic rules of honesty and Christian love, in their determination to accomplish something they perceive as good. Beware! Ananias and Saphira may be repeated. ``Listen! At the door are the footsteps of those who have buried your husband; they will carry you out, too`` (Acts 5:9). (To be continued)

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