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Why Be Good

Posted: July 28, 2016 by Rob Voyle

I love the book of Ecclesiastes or Why be Good?

I work hard, I put in lots of effort, and it all will come to nothing, says the
Preacher. Vanity of vanities, a mere striving after the wind.

I love the book of Ecclesiastes and the preacher's relentless refrain. Its the
stop sign in the way of my ego, that strives for self-aggrandizement and
self-reward. It doesn't matter whether you are good or bad we are all going to
die. We may work hard and create much, but we will die and others will pick up
or destroy what we have created. It is out of our hands and all that effort was

I also love that the preacher never gives us an answer, he leaves it up to us to
determine for ourselves, why should we do what we do, why should we be good, if
we are all going to die and end up in the grave.

We have to decide for ourselves whether to do good or do bad, live only for
ourselves or for others, the end result is the same. So, why be good?

The book of Ecclesiastes predates Christianity. In general Christians take a
different perspective, there is an afterlife, heaven or hell, that is the reward
that is why we should do what we should do.

Take a moment and imagine there is no heaven, no afterlife, and think of what
you will do today. Why will you do good or bad? ...

Now imagine there is an afterlife and think of what you will do today? Why will
you do good or bad? ...

Has your decision changed because you believe in an afterlife?

I was once teaching a class on St. Paul's belief in universal salvation. One of
the participants said, "you mean everyone is going to heaven?" "Yes," I said. He
looked at me in utter bewilderment and said, "so why am I being good?" Exactly,
why do we do good?

For many Christians there is now an external motivation to do good. Doing good
is my egos desire not to fry, but is that really good or simply an example of
radical ego self-interest. That external motivation keeps us as spiritual
infants and we will never grow up and discover the wonder and freedom of who we

If we are all going to the grave as the Preacher says, or to eternal salvation
as St. Paul says, why be good since the outcome is the same?

I have a teacher, a man I appreciate deeply for his wisdom and compassion, who
is an atheist. He does good because he is good.

I want to be like that. Without thought of some future reward to love and do
good because it is good.

Why do you do good?

With hope that there would be more good in the world, because that would be

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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