Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #45 Do Good

February 2014 Your 50 Favorite Proverbs with Liz Curtis Higgs

No one wants to be called a do-gooder—a person who tries to help those in need, yet does so in a way that’s annoying, useless, even prideful. Yet we all want to do good, right?

This week’s verse shows us the difference between doing a good thing and doing a God thing.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act. Proverbs 3:27

"Do not withhold good..." Proverbs 3:27

Do not withhold good…

Sure wish this translation put a more positive spin on things, like “Do everything you possibly can” (ERV) or simply “Do good” (EXB). That’s what the original Hebrew gives us—a single word, towb, that means “beautiful, pleasant, good, agreeable.”

Yet most versions urge us, “Don’t hold back good” (NIRV) and “Never walk away” (MSG). That’s because our flawed human nature prods us to keep rather than give, hoard rather than share, and withhold rather than extend.

Whether it’s money, time, or the place we call home, we guard them like they’re ours, instead of God’s blessings, entrusted to us so we can care for others.

It’s not that we’re selfish or greedy or controlling. Oh no. We just want to be sure people deserve whatever we give them…

Ouch, Lord. Yes, I’m listening.

Hands in Need

…from those to whom it is due,…

Due? Sounds like the people we’re supposed to be good to not only “deserve it” (CEB), they’re not only “worthy of it” (NIRV), they’re also “entitled to it” (CJB).

Apparently, they are the “rightful owners” (AMP), the “one it belongs to” (HCSB), the one “who should have it” (NLV). Why? Because they “need help” (EXB), and we’re meant to provide it, by God’s design.

God calls us worthy, so we can call others worthy.
God blesses us, so we can bless those around us.

Nothing here about requiring those in need to prove it, to grovel or beg.
Take a number. Fill out this form. Stand in this line.

Nope. God’s Word says just the opposite.

Don’t hold back. Share. Do good. Be generous. Give with joy, because “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The next verse in Proverbs makes it clear God is talking about giving something tangible, something material, not simply a kind word: “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’—when you already have it with you” (Proverbs 3:28), when “the money’s right there in your pocket” (MSG).

Open your hand. Hold it out. Help.

Lend a Helping Hand

…when it is in your power…

This isn’t Jim Carrey strutting around the set of Bruce Almighty, lip synching to “I’ve Got the Power.” This is a believer quietly, humbly serving God by giving to others “whenever you possibly can” (GNT).

Wrapped inside the original Hebrew phrase is the word el for “God,” and yad, meaning “hand.” God puts it in our hands, saying, “Go. Give.” The power comes from on high, and so does the provision.

We sing, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” but it’s more than that, beloved. We’re his hands to the world. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “your hand is God’s hand for that person” (MSG).

When is it in your power? Right now.

Don't Wait...Act Now

…to act.

That’s right. Just “do it” (ASV). Reach out your hand. “If it is within your power to give” (VOICE), then by all means, “help” (NET).

The Hebrew here, asah, is an active verb, telling us to “accomplish, do, make.” Not think about, but act upon.

Those who have are the needy ones. We must give, or risk losing all the joy of having.

During a recent ice storm, I posted on Facebook a photo of the ice-covered branches outside our window. Among the two hundred comments was one from a neighbor: “Liz, do you have power? We don’t.”

Oh dear. My heart went out to my them. But did my hand reach out to them? No, this girl stayed home, stayed warm, and prayed. Groan. 

Of course, I came up with all kinds of reasons—okay, excuses—not to act.
   Surely they have whatever they need.
   I don’t want to be a nuisance.
   Their power will come on any minute now.
   Our driveway is solid ice.
   I’d feel foolish knocking on their door.
   What would I take? Blankets? Hot chocolate?

As usual, I missed the point. The act of charity, the loving gesture, was what mattered. Not the gift itself, but the giving.

Now, on this bright and sunny Wednesday, God has gently but firmly convicted me.
If we want to be closer to me, Liz, then you need to give like me. 

This is why we study God’s Word. Not just to understand it, and definitely not just to memorize it. He wants us to do it. He calls us to act. And he gives us the power to do so. Thank you, Lord.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act. Proverbs 3:27

Ice Storm

Now it’s your turn

  • How could you act on this verse today?

Share your thoughts via Post a Comment below. Your words will encourage others (a great place to begin giving!).

Here’s your Printable of Proverbs 3:27, with four copies of this week’s verse on a single page, ready to cut apart and hang them wherever you’ll see them. And our weekly pins on Pinterest give us another way to write these proverbs on our hearts.

Next Wednesday’s verse is one of those challenging ones I really need to hear. Kinda like this week’s verse. And the one before it. So glad you’re with me on the journey.

Your sister, Liz
@LizCurtisHiggs #50Proverbs

Your Sister, Liz Curtis HiggsBible Gateway Blogger Grid Member February 2014 Your 50 Favorite Proverbs with Liz Curtis Higgs

P.S. If you enjoy contemporary fiction, take a look at Mercy Like Sunlight: A Novella, coming March 18 on ebook!

51 Responses to Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #45 Do Good

  1. Karla Powrie February 19, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    Well, God’s timing is amazing! Right before I read this, I read a FB post from a friend who is pregnant and sick. I asked her if there was anything I could do for her. But what I know in my heart is that I should make her a meal and drive it across town to her. I don’t have to work today, so it’s in my power to act! Thanks for the encouragement, I’m going to give her a call!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      LOVE THIS, Karla! God’s timing, to be sure. Your friend will be blessed by your thoughtfulness. And that food will taste extra sweet!

      Here’s when it gets tricky for me: so, I call the friend, she says, “Oh no, I’m fine, no need for you to do that,” so I hang up the phone, proud of myself for offering, and think I’ve done all I need to do. God isn’t letting me off the hook that easily anymore, nudging me to do SOMETHING that’s genuinely helpful.

      The learning process never ends, does it? And thank goodness for that!.

      • Kristy Cambron February 25, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

        Karla & Liz ~ I was one of those people who said, “No. I’m fine. I don’t need anything…” when my Dad was in ICU last autumn. And you know what? I had an *amazing*, pushy, totally awesome and loving friend who read me completely, and showed up at the hospital with a mocha latte and some chicken soup. She sat me down and made me eat. She let me talk. She cried and prayed with me. Awesome! I value this woman for acting – even when I didn’t know I needed her gift of it. : )

  2. Aloaha Voth February 19, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    As I was printing this scripture I felt the nudge to print more copies. Why? Because tomorrow I’ll be leading a small group on forgiveness. We withhold forgiveness (good) from those who need it, deserve it, even when it is in our power to forgive just as God forgave us. God’s timing is perfect! I was trying to decide which verse, as there are many, on forgiveness would I print. Thanks be to God for using you Liz to give us encouragement right where each of us need it! I’m always amazed at how God reaches each one of us in different ways right where we are. I can see this in reading others comments!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Wonderful, Aloaha! My artistic daughter, who creates those printables for us, will be thrilled to know they’re being put to good use. And you are SO right: forgiveness is the BEST thing we can offer anyone!

  3. Jackie February 19, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Well, right now my husband’s parents are both in two different hospitals. His mom (87) had bladder removal surgery last Monday, and his dad is awaiting triple bypass surgery. So the two of us (he’s an only child) are it. Their pastor and his wife are giving support during the surgeries, but we all live about two hours away. It is difficult and will be, but I will try to reflect on this message in the days to come. Thanks for sharing these.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      Goodness, Jackie. It’s impossible to be in two places at once. I’ll be praying that God will use someone in their respective hospitals to bless and comfort them on your behalf. He is fully capable of doing that, dear sister. And he will.

      • Jackie February 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

        Thank you, Liz. I am with his mom, and he is with his dad. The triple bypass surgery is tomorrow morning (Friday) at 6:00 a.m. At 85 and with emphysema it will be more difficult. He is on oxygen at night and has breathing treatments, so they will monitor that closely. It will be 4-6 hours for surgery, then 4 days in ICU. We trust in God for everything.

        • Liz Curtis Higgs February 20, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

          Thanks for the specifics, so we know how to pray, Jackie!

          • Jackie February 21, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

            My husband’s father came through the surgery okay; now we will see how the respiratory factor does. PTL, he made it through it at his age and with his other health issues. Thanks, Liz.

  4. Donna February 19, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Perfect timing. I am not exactly sure how to carry this out today. I am traveling from Tn. To Wa. State, but I will keep my eyes and ears out now with this encouragement. I am gong to see my mom who is having surgery next Monday, and there too, with Lord willing, be receptive and responsive to things He might lay on my heart. Liz, thank you for being transparent … You minister to me that way, and I pray I will follow your lead. Often I get scared, fear gets in, and often I don’t share what’s really going on inside. Thank you for your example. Much love from me to you.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 19, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

      “Sharing what’s going on inside” is definitely what the Lord asks writers to do (gulp), if only to help others do the same. Godspeed!

  5. Jan Morton February 19, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Sweet Liz: This is twice now in 4 days I’ve heard this message. Time to listen and HEED! My son preached a message on Sunday from Luke’s gospel – on what it really means to love your neighbor – using the text on the Good Samaritan. One of the points really struck hard – the Samaritan did do good – and he aslo followed up! The “follow up” really hit me strongly. He said, when I come again, I will check and repay more. WOW! How many times do we “do good” and then “be done?” I know my answer. Thank you Liz – I just love your teaching and writing!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      I read that story recently as well, Jan, and was struck by the same thing. Present AND future good care and provision, just like the Lord does for those he loves. Wow.

  6. Kathy February 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    A while ago I was standing in line at the grocery store and a woman in front of me was routing in her purse and seemed frustrated. It caught my attention so I began to observe what was going on and apparently she was short on cash. God instantly urged me to help. So I gently pulled out some cash and touched her shoulder and said – “here I have some extra cash, use this”. She immediately stopped and turned to look me right in the eyes. She blurted out in this overly projected voice -“Praise God! An angel just fell out of heaven!” All I could do was smile big and laugh. God’s eyes go to fro looking for a heart perfect towards him.
    This exchange blessed me so much, I am always on the lookout to reach out to others and no one needs to know. It’s more fun that way.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Good for you, Angel Kathy, seeing a need and filling it. And yes, it’s especially fun to bless people without their knowing it, and honors God’s Word: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4).

  7. Kay February 19, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Great point Jan! I certainly need to do more follow up. Love them all the way like Jesus does.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 20, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      So right, Kay. On Donald Miller’s blog this morning he wrote, “Kindness isn’t kindness if it stays in your mind. Follow through.”

  8. jaime February 19, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    Has anyone ever gotten to the drive thru window to be told the car in front paid for your meal? It does happen and its such an easy gesture. I’m guilty of not doing it as often as I’d like. Saying I’m usually being nagged by a hungry four year old is an excuse. There are so many ways to help others and not let anyone know. Sometimes the person on the receiving at McDonald’s is broke and using the last few dollars. And if not, the person who r may pay for the one behind them so the blessing keeps going. Small things for strangers are nice because there’s never that awkward prideful moment that sometimes happens when we do for friends. The “I’m offended you think I would need your help” thing. Obviously doing for friends and family is vital but random acts of kindness toward strangers really bless everyone involved.

    • Susan Ireland February 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

      Wow that is true, I have been there – I am just one , but what of a mother with small child. I love this <3

    • Cynthia Stevenson February 19, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      Jaime, this was done for me a couple of years ago. One day I was overly tired so I thought a Starbucks would help me out. I noticed a young college girl was in front of me. When I got to the window, I was told that the person in front of me had paid for my coffee. I just started crying. I was so overwhelmed by this act of kindness from this young girl. I called my daughter to tell her the story and she started crying.

      We just never know what an impact something so small as a cup of coffee means to someone. I still get misty-eyed when I think about this simple act of kindness and what it meant to me that day..

  9. Susan Ireland February 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    This message is being preached throughout the country. I believe it is God. If we all joined hands and gave what we could, can you just imagine ?

  10. Irena February 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Thanks I have the other problem too hot here in sunny hot Queensland Australia. Too hot to go out. As I do not drive have to walk I do try to help I give by direct debit. To various charities but feel Jesus probably wants more face to face. Helpfulness. Will try harder. Thank you for your Christian posts

  11. Shirley Raymond February 19, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    My car has become a taxicab for the elderly who no longer want to drive or can’t drive after dark. I don’t tell others what I do. I used to, and they think I am being taken advantage of. I do it because some day I may be in their position and I will pray someone will come to my rescue. Is that being selfish? It gives me pleasure to help the helpless.

    • jaime February 19, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

      Not selfish at all! We all need help, especially the elderly and disabled. God provides but a lot of people don’t realize He uses us to do it.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 20, 2014 at 8:42 am #

      We DO experience joy when we do something good for others, Shirley. Not selfish at all, just God’s kindness to us. And I love what the Lord has called you to do. SO needed!

  12. Linda Baker February 20, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    For whatever reason, I just got around to reading this today, and it (excuse me, rather God) has given me an answer to a problem? / need I’ve been pondering. Yep…just do it!! Thanks!

  13. Laura February 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Nothing profound to say Liz, except Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you every Wednesday and “spending time” with you, friend!

  14. Regina February 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    This week, my thoughts went two places.

    I recently had my annual well visit with my doctor. I like him because he remembers details about my life, and when we were chatting about stuff he asked me about my recent mission trips. He made the comment that he has peers who have done work with “Doctors without Borders” and he has always wanted to go. I admitted that sometimes I wish I had a more “practical” skill to share with the people I meet. And bless him, he was quick to point out that people need love and laughter and encouragement just as much as they may need medical or dental care. They all facilitate healing (and the sharing of the love of Jesus).

    So this verse encourages me to not minimize the good I can do. Whatever my “power” happens to look like, I shouldn’t hoard it, but give it freely away. I may never know the profound impact of my wee bit of good. And it’s not for me to know; it’s for me to give.

    I also thought about how over the past year I have probably mashed more potatoes than…I don’t know, but I’ve mashed a lot of potatoes. See, I’m in charge of evening care for my Dad and Grandpa, and mashed potatoes are their favorite food. So I make them. A lot. Sometimes I feel like if I have to mash another potato, I’ll just scream.

    But this verse reminds me that sometimes, love looks suspiciously like mashed potatoes. Because even when I’m a little weary of it, I truly love my family and I’m happy to serve them.

    So I’ll go on mashing, and go on serving…as long as it is within my power to do it.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      Regina, I love how your mind works! YES, whatever cup of cold water, warm hug, or bowl of mashed potatoes we give in God’s name TRULY honors him and helps others. Mash and serve, beloved.

  15. Donna Lee February 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    I think most of the time we have good intentions, but we are lazy, or
    skeptical . On a certain exit in the city my daughter lives in, there is
    always a homeless looking person standing at the stop sign with a sign for money
    For a long time I would look the other way, thinking he would spend it
    on drugs or alcohol( thus the skeptic) Then one day I decided when
    ever I passed someone like this, I would no longer question his need.
    Our God does not question our needs. These people have a need for help, what
    everi it might be.
    Not tooting my horn, I hope
    So thankful for so many Blessings and His scripture !
    And you too Liz 🙂

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      Nope, didn’t hear the toot of a horn, Donna, just a solid example of what we can do. I confess, though, that “lazy and skeptical” rang a very loud bell at the Higgs house!

  16. De February 21, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I appreciate what you shared, Liz, about calling and offering help but then realizing God was nudging you to do something more regardless your friend’s response. Sometimes it’s unclear to me exactly what kind of “good” is needed in a situation even though I know God has put someone on my heart. I’m still learning to hear and respond, and specifically to not dismiss the everyday potato-mashing (loved that from Regina’s comment above) ways we can show Gods love and share good with others. For me, “not withholding good” today is about not over thinking a God-prompt, but to respond quickly no matter what that looks like.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      So right, De. Sometimes my own over-thinking is a form of avoidance or procrastination. Praise God for his patience with us.

    • cherrie:) February 24, 2014 at 11:12 am #

      i agree. sometimes when the person you want to help says no thank you. how do we keep doing something without hurting them? i let them know that i will be praying for them and later send a card to let them know i am still thinking of them.

  17. Tammy February 23, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Loved your post!

    Over 20 years ago, I was the unwed mother commuting to college with my then, 3 year old. My car broke down and I was able to get to a gas station. Not a penny to my name, and a little one telling me she was hungry and thirsty, I tried to tell her we would get something when we got home. (We were over an hour away and the car would need to be towed.)

    A teenager, looking quite scary, overheard my daughter and bought her milk and a packaged snack. I heard him telling the clerk, “that lady there is stranded, her little girl is hungry.” I could cry just thinking about this. The teen handed the items to me after he checked out. A few minutes later, the clerk offered me a place to sit in the break room until help arrived. She later offered my daughter food and I told her I didn’t have money and that she was fine, but thanked her. She brought pizza after we were there for more than 2 hours.

    I’m far from those struggling days…but I will never forget what it meant to be the one in need and also the kind ACT from an unlikely source…who sparked the kindness of others.

    Much learned that day.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:49 am #

      Bless you, Tammy, for sharing what it’s like to be on the receiving end. Such a moving story, and a motivating one for all of us.

  18. Susan Gruener February 23, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    This was such a good ‘description’ of what this verse means. I’ve always liked this verse, but didn’t see the true meaning of it. And to you ‘missing’ it, on perhaps helping the neighbor…we’ve all done it – many times! I think the Lord graciously keeps reminding us of who we are in Him, and wants us to listen closely to His Spirit ‘next time’. 🙂 He just wants us to ‘look’ more and more like Him, without guilt and shame. He is such a good Father!
    Thanks again for another good ‘explanation’ of another proverb! I am so enjoying these!
    Love to you,

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:52 am #

      Thanks for that reminder, Susan. The very last thing I want to do is heap guilt and shame on anyone’s shoulders. God’s love and mercy are the true motivating forces for doing good.

  19. chris February 23, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    I’m inspired to volunteer now at a furniture provider mission in town.
    thanks for the guidance TO DO.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      That guidance would come entirely from God, of course, and I’m blessed to cheer you on!

  20. Sarie Anderson February 24, 2014 at 3:56 am #

    In was away at a conference, so only had time today to reflect on Proverb #45. It ties in so beautifully with the teaching on I Peter 4:7-11 which was the focus during the times in God’s Word. Then yesterday during our Sunday worship time together, Galatians 6:9 was the focus and this is one of the verses my husband & I claim each year as we endeavor to serve God cross culturally here in Spain. It says, “Let us NOT become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I like the connection between this verse and Proverbs 3:27. We are encouraged by Peter to not grow weary in doing good and to not give up and in Proverbs, we are admonished to not withhold good. May I be more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in how to do good — in little or big ways each and every day!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs February 24, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Wonderful to see how the truth presented in those verses intertwines, Sarie. Much joy to you as you serve the Lord in Spain!

  21. cherrie:) February 24, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    this past weekend we went to a weekend to remember. it was very good to see how the LORD has given people the gift of serving, teaching and loving. the people who working this conference left children behind to serve us. one of the things i like to do is thank them by a card and some candy. i am sure that the candy never makes it home to their children. i think it is wonderful for people like them and you Liz that you serve people who need to hear God’s word and love.
    thank you for your service and gifts
    p.s. i will be hearing you next month in port huron, michigan

  22. Regina Russell February 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading the comments of my sisters-in-Christ too. It looks like you hit the nail on the head and many of us who read this will find our own little selfish reactions a little harder to bear.

  23. Cathy Gross February 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    It is most touching when the good you are called to do is for someone you simply do not like…not been a little bit. It is very humbling. Jesus deals with you right them

  24. Valerie February 25, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Thank you so much Liz! Yet again God works through you with such great timing, though I am delayed on this one. I think God intended it to happen this way ; ) oh how I love him. The thoughts that are running not only though my mind, but through my veins, my soul are amazing. There’s no better time to start then now.

  25. Johnnita February 26, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    HI Liz
    A friend told me about your site and I’ve come for a peek. What strikes me most about the verse are the words … Do not withold … I am reminded of my daughter (she is 13) who comes to a grumpy and tired mother for a goodnight kiss only to be told to go to bed and I will come kiss you later. I am reminded tonight that it is … within my power to act … and that my daughter is a gift and blessing from GOD and she will soon grow up and fly the nest. Needless to say I will be reminding myself to give goodnight kisses regardless of how tired and grumpy I am. Thank you for your insight and wisdom.

  26. Mary E Taylor February 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Dear Liz,
    I am so behind that I read two of your weekly posts today. I am doing less and less as I am more house bound with my husband. I was so frustrated that I could not volunteer at church or helping neighbors. So now when God lays a person or situation on my heart I not only pray but call or write a note to them. This little bit seems to bless them and me right now. Thank you for your encouragement.