Confucius said, “To see what is right, and to not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.”
We know that our God always does right, as Abraham said in his prayer, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The children of Israel were commanded to do right, as we read in Deuteronomy, “And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee.” As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to do right, as we read in the book of James, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” If we understand and recognize what is right, why are we not doing what we know we should be doing? According to Confucius, is it because we lack courage or are we lacking principles?
For most of us it surely is the lack of courage. We know we should be doing right, but it seems more than we feel we are able to do. Sometimes we don’t know how to begin, but often, we are afraid. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Courage is about doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. Have the courage to act instead of react.”
We are thankful that we serve a merciful Father who will not give us more than we can handle. As Paul tells us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Our duty is to do the right thing when we see that something should be done. We begin the job and do the best we can do with what we have right where we are. We may feel inadequate to the task, but we can assure ourselves, as Paul did, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Helen Keller, who was born blind and deaf, wisely realized, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” Few of us are as handicapped as she was. She recognized that there were some things that she could do, and so she proceeded to do what she could using those abilities she had.
John Wooden, a famous basketball coach, had good advice when he said, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” All too often we use the excuse we cannot do everything, so we do nothing. Truly there is much we cannot do, but, as John Wooden notes, we should not let that stop us. Whenever there is the opportunity, we need to take action and do the right thing, because we know with Christ strengthening us, we can.
The second reason why we do not do what we know is right according to Confucius is want of principle. What does it mean to be unprincipled? By definition, an unprincipled person follows no moral code, has no integrity and should not be trusted. An unprincipled person is not living a life doing what is right.
Let us hope that “unprincipled” does not describe any of us. Perhaps Confucius’s first suggestion that we are not doing what we should be doing is because we lack the courage.
Many of God’s chosen leaders lacked courage. God tells Abram after he battled the kings, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” God tells Moses when he was facing a battle, “Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand.” After Moses had died and the millions of Israelites were under the command of Joshua, Joshua no doubt lacked courage, because God reassures him several times, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” We know that Joshua obeyed in spite of his fears and led the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
When King Asa needed courage, we read,
“Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!’ And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage.”
God knows that sometimes we lack the courage we should have and often He sends someone to us to help us.
When Jesus was in his final hours in Gethsemane, God sent an angel to strengthen him. When the apostle Paul was travelling to Rome as a prisoner, we read, “And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and the three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.”
How thankful we are to know that the Lord knows all about us, and when we are lacking courage, He will strengthen us. Sometimes the messengers He sends are other weak mortals, but we can help each other by words of encouragement. Also, we can get strength from our own personal study of the Scriptures where we read how others took courage and did do right.
Let us each keep quoting the words of Paul to ourselves, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He could and so can we.
Robert J. Lloyd