When Good Turns Bad

By Dot Bowen


Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house—too much of you, and he will hate you. Proverbs 25:17 (NIV)


You can overdo anything! I know because I overdo most things. I even can get out of balance trying to be balanced. If you were to list the things you do, you may find you also struggle with keeping everything in balance. I have come to realize we can get out of balance in doing good If this is true—and I believe it is—how do we know when too much is too much? And who determines the boundaries? I encourage you to examine your daily activities and look for the areas that overwhelm you, and most likely, these are the areas in which you are out of balance.

Most of us want to know how close we can get to temptation before we will fall in to sin. But have you ever thought about knowing when to stop doing good things before they become sin? What exactly am I talking about? Consider a friend or family member who is in financial trouble whom you want to help. You begin to offer them financial support, which is good! But when does this good become bad? Perhaps it’s when they desire your help over helping themselves. Or you notice they have developed a new attitude labeled “entitlement.” This attitude dresses itself in the belief everyone owes them so why should they make an effort to be financially stable? We must be careful when helping others as we become aware of negative behavior or attitudes because this is when our good turns in to bad.

The one thing I find the hardest to balance is limiting my time to meet with someone who is going through a difficult time. I’m sure your heart has been broken over watching someone you care about deal with tragedy. There is nothing we want more than to be a listening ear and a shoulder for our friends and family to cry and lean on. God has asked us to be His hands and feet and to show His love to His hurting children. We tend to cancel everything to find time to sit and cry with these hurting people. Day after day, we meet for coffee or spend hours on the phone praying and encouraging them to hold on and trust God. We know God has sent them to us to encourage them not to give up, but how do we know how to balance our time with her along with our limited time to accomplish our own responsibilities? One way is when we begin to notice our hurting friend is more interested in talking with us than spending time with God. Another sign is when our family begins to make comments like, Are you still talking with her? We sense a nudge in our spirit and know down deep what once was for their good has become detrimental for both of us.

Solomon is known for his wisdom and the renowned quote, “There’s a time for everything...” Solomon also advises us in regards to staying in balance in Proverbs 25:17: “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he has his fill of you and hates you.” I don’t think Solomon is saying never to go to your neighbor’s house! Nor is he saying you risk your neighbor hating you every time you visit. Solomon is referring to out of balance behavior. How do we know when enough is enough? How can we know when our good deeds have become a crutch for someone? I believe this is a legitimate question, and I also believe we know in our hearts when our involvement becomes too much. The challenge isn’t knowing when enough it enough, but being willing to take heed to the warning signs. Experience has taught me if I don’t listen to the promptings of my heart to slow things down, what once strengthened my relationships ended up destroying them. There are times love might be better expressed through withholding than giving. This is often known as tough love.

A clear indicator to know when our good actions have turned bad is when I become more concern with getting a thank you than giving God the glory for the opportunity to be used by Him. The only healthy way to live out of balance is in your love for God. God has asked us to love Him with all our mind, heart and soul. If we become out of balance with our love for God, we will immediately know when we are out of balance with everything else.

Further Reading Proverbs 25:27-28; Colossians 3:17; Deuteronomy 6:5; Hebrews 13:21

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