A brief summary of the Book of Hebrews at The Bible Project explains the Book’s purpose. The writer describes Jesus, exalts him, and then warns the audience not to reject him. Next, the writer explains how to live like a follower of Jesus. For example, Christians should do good and share with others. What does he mean by that?
The Meaning of 'to Forget'
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (ESV).
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (NIV).
And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God (NLT).
Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices (CSB).
Another scholar, Joseph H. Thayer, added another layer to the definition with “given over to oblivion, i.e., uncared for.” Neglect and apathy are sins of omission, very different from forgetting to post your mother’s birthday card that is sitting on your kitchen table.
Rather than say “do good,” the writer phrases his instruction in such a way as to infer that many of his readers were guilty of deliberately choosing not to do good when they could.
Neglect is a conscious choice not to think about other people’s needs, to walk past the injured man in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
Meaning of 'to Do Good'
In a Christian’s life, loving Christ leads to actively loving others. This is what it means to “do good” — eupoiia in ancient Greek. God expects his people to do good, and several verses emphasize this expectation:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Trust in the Lord, and do good (Psalm 37:3).
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? (James 2:14).
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17).
The verses above indicate that doing good or eupoiia involves:
2. Trusting God
Firstly, there is this idea that one could grow weary of doing good. For instance, when the disciples went into various towns preaching the gospel, many people ignored, insulted, or even abused them.
They might have grown disheartened, frustrated, and given up out of sheer fatigue at the way people treated them, but also because the result is heartbreaking.
Paul said, “Do not grow weary,” with the expectation and understanding that Christians grow emotionally tired of watching people choose hell instead of choosing Jesus. Yet, Jesus faced all of these tribulations and more, and he continued to do good.
Secondly, the Psalmist pairs “doing good” with “trusting God.” Faced with frequent, if not constant, rejection, it would have seemed as though sharing the gospel was futile, or one might think his or her technique is wrong.
God uses all of his willing servants to lead lost people to Christ, and he works through his people by his Spirit. Disciples can find peace with God by remembering that he is in control of the outcome, and he sees what we do not see.
Thirdly, talking about doing good works sounds attractive but makes Christians look like fools and hypocrites if those words lead to nothing.
So-called believers are no better than Pharisees when they boast how Christ is resurrected and has changed their lives while they actually neglect the needs in front of them.
They sully the message by the testimony of their lives, which is all the more reason for true believers to trust God to do a good work in spite of hypocrites, liars, and in spite of our own failings too.
Finally, if you see that someone needs something, then the only options are to ignore their need or to share something with them. That might be time, a listening ear, a cup of water, or a meal.
It might be money, a bedroom, some groceries, or babysitting services. When we go to people in their distress, we are opting to share something of ourselves, and we also share Jesus. Whatever we have to share comes directly from him.
Why This Exhortation?
The clues are in the context of Hebrews 13. The writer encouraged his readers to “let brotherly love continue” (v.1). His description of “brotherly love” suggests areas of negligence in the lives of these Jewish Christians.
They were disrespecting their leaders and listening to false teachers. These new Christians were not showing hospitality, helping people in prison, or honoring marriage.
The people did not want to share what they had, indicating that they did not trust God to give them what they needed. They were disobeying the command to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Because the letter is written by one who has experienced the grace of God, it also offers a gracious conclusion.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21).
This is a great kindness, to not only point out flaws but to give direction as to how they could turn things around and live like followers of their Savior. The writer is merciful to remind his readers that God will equip them to do what he wants from them. This is a huge relief.
But Works Do Not Save Us
One scholar wrote that “the only thing that justifies us before God is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. [...] Good works, then, are not what justifies us before God” (Hebrews 13:16). If these works do not justify us, why are they so important?
Because if we are truly changed, if we really love the Lord, our lives have been transformed. We see people through his eyes, and we consider others ahead of ourselves.
Not only is the Christian aware that he should do good, but it is our joy to worship Christ with our lives. “Joy should inspire good works, done for others, as an act of worship” (Ibid.).
The Acts church was a picture of what a faith community can look like, an image that Christians aspire to. This early church demonstrated what it meant to look after each other financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
Community, by its very nature, involves sharing, and the Christian life is one of community —fellowship. “The life of a Christian is not only to be a worshiping, praising life but a shared life,” wrote John Piper.
Piper acknowledges the sacrifices inherent to this kind of life, yet these are the kinds of sacrifices that God wants from us. Not animals on altars, but a life that declares Christ as Savior and Sovereign.
God is pleased by sacrifices that “honor […] the death of his son,” which shows how he can be trusted because they are his work, not ours (Ibid.).
God’s Pleasure, Our Delight
If we love God, our greatest delight is to please him. John Piper describes it as “a thrilling thing to know that the way you are living is proving the success of the sufferings of Jesus. [...] Your good deeds and your shared life are the triumph of his cross” (Ibid.).
We are motivated by the idea that some simple act of generosity flowing from a genuine heart of worship could lead a lost person to Christ’s far richer, eternal comfort.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.