Understanding The Bible
"When Good Men Do Nothing"
Dr. Glen Clifton
James 4:17

"When Good Men Do Nothing"
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.

A man had a flat tire just outside the fenced wall of a mental institution. As he was changing the tire, a local inmate in the hospital was watching him through the fence. As he was taking his tire off, he kicked his hub cap which held his lug nuts. The nuts sled into a nearby storm drain and he couldn’t get to them. He was in a dilemma, and wondering how he was going to get his spare on. The man behind the fence saw his problem and yelled out, “hey mister, why don’t you just take one nut off each of the other three tires. You can then travel to a station and get some more.” The driver did just that. Before he went on his way, he turned to the man behind the fence, and asked how he knew to do this? The man said, “hey mister, I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”

There are a lot of crazy and stupid things that are happening our country today. One columnist recently wrote, “Mass hysteria has swept our land.” In an effort to be “politically correct,” many are bending over backward so as “not to offend” anyone about anything. Under the pretence of the first amendment’s prohibition against “establishment of religion,” and the courts bogus “separation of church and state,” interpretation of the same, we are witnessing an ongoing attack on American and Christian values.

For instance: some school boards across our country (even in Florida), have recently banned songs and instrumental music containing references to Santa Claus, Jesus, and other religious Christmas symbols (as if Santa was a religious symbol). One New York school system permits displays of Jewish menorahs and the Muslim star and crescent, but not the Christian nativity scene. Some child may be offended by baby Jesus. Oh yes, this case might come before the u.s. Supreme court soon.

Here’s another: an Alabama sixth-grader was threatened with discipline for wearing a cross necklace. In Eugene, Oregon the city manager banned Christmas trees and holiday decorations with religious themes from public spaces. His reason: “we must put a neutral face on a religious holiday in the workplace. In Denver, Colorado a float proclaiming “Merry Christmas” was banned from Denver’s parade of light... which has been given for decades.

The arrogant atheist of California, Michael Newdow, still wants to get the pledge of allegiance declared unconstitutional, because it contains the words, “under god.” He stated that the framers of the constitution did not mention god in the nations’ founding document. On television with little Katie Couric, he stated, “there is no reference to god in the constitution, it’s striking, that it is missing.” Well, duh? The final sentence begins, “the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven…”

so, why the attack on the Christian religion? One phrase in the declaration of independence states...  “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” and another, “laws of nature and nature’s God,” and, “appealing to the supreme judge of the world.” What were our founding forefathers thinking of... using such inflammatory language? The attack on Christian ideas and Christian public displays is part and parcel of the leftist, liberal, communist, ACLU controlled agenda.

As a public school teacher across America for almost 50 years (in four states, where I was serving as pastor), I have never seen such utter disregard and rudeness for the pledge of allegiance as I have by high school students (and faculty) here in Florida. How can we expect today’s youth to carry the banner of patriotism and Americanism tomorrow, when the adults of today will not stand up for truth’s we know are real?

Well, that’s my introduction... guess I better get on to the sermon.

British statesman, orator and writer, Edmund burke, about 200 years ago said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

As we look at history and the struggle between good and evil, this observation by burke holds true. Time and again those who profess to be good seem to clearly outnumber those who are evil... yet; those who are evil seem to prevail far too often. Seldom is it the numbers that determine the outcome, but whether those who claim to be good men are willing to stand up and fight for what they know to be right. The scriptures are full of these stories, as well.


First, let me say... . When good men do nothing...
They get nothing good done...

To be good, one must do good. The lord commands his people to do good (Luke 6:35; Ephesians 6:35). Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14).

Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea for doing nothing. He said, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I could wish you were either cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew (Greek -vomit) you out of my mouth.” (revelation 3:15-16). In other words, a do-nothing church and do-nothing Christians make god sick!

Matthew records Jesus’ story of the parable of the talents (matt. 25:14-26). In this parable, Jesus described a man who did nothing. When he received his lord’s money, he “went and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” (v. 18). When his lord returned, he returned to the lord just what had been given. (v.25). Notice: the servant did not do any outright evil, such as stealing the money, but, neither did he do anything good. Remember: he did nothing, and nothing good was accomplished. Jesus said he was a “wicked and slothful servant.” (v. 26).

  1. Far too many Christians are just sitting... doing nothing! Far too many churches are just going through the motions...  Doing nothing! They are standing idle, as mere spectators. Many churches (and pastors), are sitting on the sidelines, just watching the world race to hell, without actively participating in the redemptive work of Jesus.
  2. When the church wins... and good wins, these sideline sitters shout ‘hallelujah’ and join in the celebration, though they did nothing to produce the victory. On the other hand, when evil wins, they are the first to whine and complain long and loud, even though it was their own apathy that helped produce the undesirable result.
  3. Question: are you one of the whiners? Do you whine and complain when your pastor preaches to long? Do you moan when someone displeases you? Do you fret when you don’t get your way in church? If you do, you are a zero, a naught, a nothing for the cause of Christ.
  4. I’m always amazed at those who talk a big talk, but never can be found when it is commitment time? Do you aid your pastor in outreach visitation? Do you teach a class? Do you sing in the choir or with the congregation? Do you volunteer to paint the classrooms, or mow the church lawn? I could go on, but you get the point. When you are doing nothing... .you are getting nothing good done!
  5. I’m reminded of the man who came to his pastor and asked, “what are you doing?” “nothing” was the answer of the pastor. “what are you planning on doing later?” “nothing,” came the reply again. “that’s good,” said the man, “can I stay and help you?” Anybody you know?
  6. We find the story of the barren fig tree in Matthew 21. The bible states that, “he was hungry,” and when he came to the fig tree, he “found nothing on it but leaves only.” Because of this, he placed a curse on the tree and “the fig tree withered away.” (vs. 18-19). Does that story speak to you and me? What will Jesus do with those of us who claim to be good, and yet, we continually do nothing? We never serve! We never bear fruit!

John the Baptist warned, “and now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10; 7:19).

Church member, if you are a real born-again Christian, are you living a life of service? Are you really doing good for Jesus? Are you laying up treasures in heaven? When you get to heaven, how many will greet you and thank you for leading them to Christ?


Secondly, let me say: when good men do nothing...
They help evil to triumph...

Evil, sin and sinful men must be opposed. God commands those of us who are good, not just to avoid evil, but to actively oppose it. I know that’s not popular…or politically correct, but it is biblical.

The bible teaches that Christians are not only to “have no fellowship (do not participate) with the unfruitful works of darkness, but also reprove (expose) them.” (Ephesians 5:11).

We may not like this, but it is our responsibility, as believers, to expose unfruitful deeds. Anything that displeases God, we should not be ashamed to stand against and expose... even when it is not popular!

The new English bible translates this, “to show them up for what they are.” This idea surely flies in the face of the “politically correct,” “broad minded,” “liberal” thinking of our day. Today’s culture has put the emphasis on what it calls “tolerance.” Bible believing and bible living Christians are now being branded as “right-wing,” “radical,” and even “sub-human” beings. Those of us today who really take a stand for Christ are labeled as “intolerant” Christian “bigots.”

Many Christians today cower behind the four walls of our buildings, afraid to be branded and labeled for what we are. Many a church has given way to the idea that every form of sin is o.k., and those "social gospelers" have been given rave reviews by the media.

When Dee (my wife) and I were pastoring in the pioneer mission work in northern California in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it wasn’t all that easy. Dee was having babies and I was working several jobs. I worked in a sawmill part-time, in the woods bucking trees with a chain saw part-time, teaching school and was pastor of a small, growing church.

One day, my foreman in the sawmill, a 6 ft., 4 in., former navy boxing champion, and a real “hell-raiser,” called me in his office. He wanted to know why I didn’t curse like the rest of the men. He said, “I’ve noticed that you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, smoke or cheat on your wife.” Then he made a statement I’ll never forget... .”Glen, I don’t see how people like you have any fun at all.” Then, I got to share with him my testimony of how Jesus had changed my life.”

In the days of Elijah, the silence of many had allowed the evil of Ahab and jezebel to prevail throughout the land of Israel. “and Elijah came unto all the people, and said, ‘how long will you falter between two opinions? If the lord is god, then follow him, but if Baal, follow him. But the people answered him not a word.” (I kings 18:21).

The silence of the people spoke volumes of their indecisiveness and inaction. Their failure to stand up, speak up, and speak out permitted wicked and evil men to run rampant.

Remember the story Jesus told of the traveler who was robbed, beaten and left behind half dead? The men who did this were wicked and did a very wicked thing. But, the priest placed his religiosity above the welfare of the desperate man. The Levite placed his own safety before compassion. He looked and then left the man to his plight. The Samaritan placed compassion and service above everything. This good Samaritan didn’t just “talk the talk.” He “walked the walk!” He gave his time, his energy, his goods, and his commitment.

Two boys entered the dentist’s office. One boy said, I want a tooth taken out, and I don’t want any gas, and I don’t want it deadened because we are in a hurry!” The dentist said, “you are a brave young man. Which tooth is it?” The boy turned to the smaller friend and said, “show him your tooth, Albert.”

The world is full of volunteers like that. We’re anxious to have changes made... to others! We’re in a hurry for life situations to be changed... by others! We don’t mind if god changes the world as long as he doesn’t bring any pain into our lives... and we don’t want to make a commitment.

Jesus warned, “he that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.” (Matthew 12:30). In the fight against evil, there is no middle ground, no grey area, no neutrality. Those of us who are not actively and vigorously fighting against evil are helping evil to triumph.


Thirdly, when good men do nothing…
They are no longer good…

Many today have the mistaken notion that good is merely the absence of doing that which is wrong. Not so! One is good…not merely because he does no evil, but because he is actively working for what is good. The apostle peter wrote, “let him turn away (shun) evil, and do good…” (I Peter 3:11. James also explained, “therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17). Sometimes silence can murder.

Reuben knew his brothers’ murderous plot against their younger brother Joseph was wrong. He started an attempt to deliver Joseph, but as he hesitated and vacillated, the other brothers sold Joseph into slavery. When Reuben heard what they had done, he realized that his failure to act had helped to bring about this evil result.

Instead of correcting his error, Reuben sought to cover his own guilt by agreeing with his brothers to lie to their father about Joseph’s disappearance (genesis 37:18-35). Reuben had ‘good intentions’ and he was not even present when Joseph was sold into slavery, but he knew that his inaction and absence made him just as guilty as the rest of his wicked brothers. This guilt continued to haunt him through the years. (Genesis 42:21-22). Reuben was an accomplice in this crime by participating with his brothers, even though he did nothing physically himself.

We find that Obadiah severely condemned the Edomites for doing nothing when evil was befalling their brethren, the Jews. When Jerusalem was invaded by her enemies, the Edomites “stood on the other side” doing nothing, just watching the slaughter as spectators. God said by their failure to act and to help their brethren “even you were as one of them.” (v. 11)

Today, there are priests and preachers and other Christians who fail and refuse to meet the real foe, refute error and fight the enemy. Instead, they have turned to viciously savaging their own brethren. They are filled with bitterness and hatred and they maliciously attack, slander and misrepresent other Christians.

The apostle Paul warned about such men and behavior among those professing to be Christians, “but if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.” (Galatians 5:15). Those who engage in such behavior are nothing more than spiritual cannibals. And, I must add, that our churches today, unfortunately, are filled with these people.

While the conduct of these “so-called” Christians is shameful, what about those supposedly “good” men who do nothing? Those who stand on the sidelines and do nothing watching as their brothers are being slandered and devoured, they cease being innocent by-standers and idle spectators. Their failure to act not only allows evil to triumph, but makes them accomplices, (just as guilty), as the spiritual cannibals they refuse to reprove and rebuke. In god’s words, “even you were as one of them.” (Obadiah 11).


Let me say, in conclusion...
God warns us: “do not be deceived; god is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) do you realize what that means? It means, when I plant corn - I harvest corn, not potatoes. When I plant peas - I get peas, not beans. This is the “law of reciprocity.” It means what ever you put in; you will get out, the law of sowing and reaping.

Those who fail or refuse to do good in the face of evil are sowing dangerous seeds. They are doing nothing good as Jesus commanded them to do; they are helping evil to win and have ceased being good and have become partakers of the evil they did nothing to stop.

As Christians, we must not allow evil to triumph. We must not sit by and do nothing. We must stand up and be counted, speak up against evil, and speak out against evil men and their sinful ways.

Martin Niemoller, the godly Lutheran minister who was incarcerated by the Nazi Gestapo during World War II, wrote this in 1946 after being released from prison. First, they came for the communists, and I did not speak up - because I was not a communist. Then, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak up - because I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me... and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Just before his execution, the apostle Paul wrote, “put on the whole armor of god, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…” (Ephesians 6:11).

Are you willing to stand... .for Jesus?
Are you willing to commit you life to him today?
Are you willing to live for him daily?

Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen Clifton
Used by permission

"Running The Race of  Life"
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton

1.  Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here.  He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.

Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography