Saturday, February 09, 2008

On Doing Good and Doing Well

What you have as heritage
Take now as task;
For thus you will make it your own.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It was famously said of the early Quakers who founded Pennsylvania, "They set out to do good and they did well." Not surprisingly, the characteristics of discipline, emotional stability, focus, determination, vision, integrity and perseverance that gave Quakers the hope of advancing the Kingdom of God at a societal level in Pennsylvania were the same traits that, in the end, were used to advance personal well-being and social status. The Quaker experiment in Pennsylvania suffered a tragic error when the vision for goodness was aborted for the pursuit of wellness.

We do well to take the lesson of the Quakers in Pennsylvania to heart. To no credit of our own, many of my young adult friends and I stand blessed with memories of a blissful and peaceful upbringing. It is so tempting to take the gifts of a stable upbringing and just do well. We did not struggle greatly to get an education, to find a secure job, and to make wise decisions regarding personal conduct. We have been set up to do well. Making money, succeeding professionally and relaxing in our circle of stable friendships is easily our lot through inheritance.

But may it not be said of us that we have simply done well. Instead, may we actively seek, within the context of community, to do good. May we not only profess with our prayers, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done," but possess with our actions and loves and desires the lived and worked reality and fulfillment of that prayer.