Good Intentions Only Pave the Road to Hell

Actions matter more than words. The author of the Letter of James writes that faith all by itself doesn’t do much. From this has come the popular notion, often criticized, that “God helps those who help themselves.” But that in fact is what James’ point actually is. He demands of his readers that those who claim to have faith should be demonstrating that fact. Demons believe in God, he tells us, but that doesn’t seem to change their behavior at all. Telling us you have faith is about as useful as a demon’s belief in God. What you believe should be reflected in how you live. If it isn’t, what good is your belief? If someone lacks food and clothes, telling them, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed” doesn’t end their suffering. If you don’t actually do something about their physical needs, your kind words and good intentions are worthless.

In politics, nine times out of ten all that seems to matter are the words that the politicians chose to say. What they actually do rarely matters. The intentions of their programs and legislations trumps the actual outcome. If it doesn’t work, doesn’t help, or actively hurts, well, who cares. The intentions were good. We did something. We prove we care. The politician that says warm words about the suffering gets more political traction than the one who doesn’t, even if the one who doesn’t open his mouth puts real money, sweat and tears into an effort that is actually transformative. If the politician belongs to the wrong party, or if he doesn’t use just the right magic words, what he does seems not to matter.

But in the real world, unlike the political world, what you do matters far more than what you say.

Our presidents, our congresses, our governors and our legislators have very good intentions. They love telling us how much they care, how much they feel our pain, and they love giving pretty speeches about how much they intend to make things better. Unfortunately, they are just paving the road to Hell. Telling us how they meant well doesn’t make the flames feel any better.

Send to Kindle

About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *