At the time of my lecture at Calvin Seminary, I received the following question from a listener: “How do you reconcile Luke 6:33 which tells that sinners do good to them that do good to them with the view that the non-elect can not do any kind of good?”
First of all, I must emphasize, as I have so often done before, that you must never quote a single text from Scripture all by itself: then you can make Scripture “prove” almost anything you please. We must always quote and explain a given text in its immediate context as well as in the light of the “current teaching” of Scripture.
Secondly, therefore, let us get the immediate context before us: “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them which curse you, and pray, for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smites thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take away thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to, them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be children of the highest, for he is kind to the unthankful and evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful.”
Now does the text teach that the ungodly reprobate actually do good? Let it be a relative good, a lesser sort of good; but a good that is thankworthy, a good that meets a measure of our Lord’s approval?
The very contrary is true. The text plainly states that sinners “do good to those who do good to them.” They do not do good to all their fellowmen, but only to those to whom it is personally profitable for them. Is this good? Relatively good? Does our Lord- recommend it? Of course not! Our Lord disapproves it and emphatically warns against it. Why? Because it is pure selfishness and self-seeking. Such men do not even do good in the so-called natural sense of the word, not even in a “humanistic” sense. They do not seek to “help their fellow man.” They seek themselves and please themselves. In this same sense the natural man “loves” those who “love” him. In the same sense they lend to those from whom they receive again. And their desperately evil character becomes evident in the fact that these are those who hate, curse, despitefully use, and smite God’s people.
This was, of course, one of the passages quoted by the Synod of 1924 in support of Point III. One can only conclude that the Synod (or its committee) was desperate when they clung to such straws as this for proof.
Nor, by the way, does it take any kind of grace to do this kind of “good.” The whole world is full of this. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. That way we’ll both benefit.” This only requires the discernment of natural light.