"She does a lot of good, but she's... mean."
A friend used those words to describe her mother-in-law to me recently. Frankly, I don't remember much about the rest of our conversation; but those words have stuck with me for days.
At first, the sentence doesn't look right, does it? How could someone who "does a lot of good" be "mean"?
However, when I think about it, I can think of examples of times when I (or others around me) have done "good" in a "mean" way. How often have I helped someone while being in an irritable mood? How often have I done good in one moment, only to say something mean in the next?
What is the saddest part about doing good while being mean? People can see through the pretense. While I may think I'm honoring Christ by doing good, I'm really disgracing his name while erecting a barrier between people and God. It's no wonder that the apostle Paul wrote, "And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works..." (Titus 3:14). Sometimes we need to learn not only to do good works, but also how and why we should do them.
"If I give away all I have...but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3).