UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Most bad results started with good intentions. In working for a church I’ve noticed that every effort to minister to others that has turned into something that was doing more harm than good started with enthusiasm and with a very noble goal. The problem for us as humans is that we often have tunnel vision which causes us to see one angle or result of an action or ministry but we aren’t able to see what all might happen that will undo all the good that was intended to happen. Every church I’ve been associated with was filled with people with big hearts who wanted desperately to help those who are struggling most in life. But time and again I’ve watched as these noble callings turned from something that was helping people who were hurting into a program that benefitted the ones who learned how to work the system and get free help while refusing to work to provide for the needs in their life.

A few years ago we launched a food program in which we offered food to supply a family for a week with recipes they could use in cooking the things that were given to them and make good nutritious meals for their family. At first it was a great ministry that helped many who were really in trouble and we had lots of families who worked hard to get the food needed and to deliver it to the people. We made the effort to offer a Bible Study for those who came for food that they could learn more about God and the church’s devotion to God that led to the effort to help them with food. Obviously such a ministry will grow in the number of people who come. But as years past and thousands of bags of food had been handed out those who worked in the ministry became frustrated and discouraged at the very same people coming week after week and developing ways to have different family members to come so they could get more of the food they wanted. The unintended consequence was that it turned into a way to provide for those who refused to work to provide for their own care. Often when people came they would become irate if they didn’t get what they wanted in the food bags. So a noble effort to help the needy died an ignoble death.

Look at all the government programs that start with wonderful intentions to help the needy but turn into something that feeds the laziness and even dishonesty among people. I can easily imagine the reasoning when government officials came up with the idea of provide free cell phones to the poor and needy so that they could contact people in time of need or even that they might have the means of reaching emergency help when one was sick or injured. The program isn’t an old one but it took very little time to see the unintended consequences. People who got one phone with the 250 minutes free each month quickly learned they could go back and get another when those minutes ran out and then another when those ran out so that many of the people who were to be helped had 5 to 10 different phones with each one getting the maximum number of minutes to use to talk to everyone they could think of. What was thought to be a rather cheap way of assisting people in poverty turned into to an enormous expense for the government which really means the expense was to all of us who pay taxes.

It is amazing how many people in the world, feel that any way they can use or abuse the system to have personal benefit is all right. Many with this attitude work harder at avoiding any real work in their life than most of us do to work and provide for our own. Why is that the case and why does it seem to be getting worse all the time? When a nation loses it understanding of right and wrong and loses it’s faith in a God who watches over our lives and helps us all the time, they will adopt all kinds of attitudes and actions that are immoral, unfair, dishonest and punishment for the ones who are trying to do right. When our moral compass is broken nothing we do to hurt another matters if it in some way helps us. I wish we could get back to schools teaching morality and ethical behavior. But I would be much more excited if our homes became again the training ground by which children grew up knowing what is right, true and honest and with the conviction to do right because we serve the God of the Universe.

The fact good things can turn out to be bad, is no excuse for not attempting to do as many good things as possible. But we should have our eyes opened to the fact that any effort to do good will be counterfeited by Satan into something that does more harm than good. It is for that reason primarily that we must be willing to kill, discontinue and destroy programs that were meant to do good but aren’t accomplishing such good any longer.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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