If you ask someone if they have heard the quote from Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, chances are you will get a “yes”, even from those who have never read the Bible before.

Giving is universally accepted and encouraged across cultures, races, and belief systems. But Christians are more than merely “encouraged” to do good. Hebrews 10:23–24 tells us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” and “consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”.

In other words, doing good is an integral part of the Christian life. As James 1:27 says, religion that is pure and acceptable to God is to “look after orphans and widows in their distress”. Yet, the reality is that many of us—myself included—fail to do this!

The solution, I believe, begins at home. 


A Sheepy Adventure

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Caring Enough to Do Good

As a parent, I am aware that I pass on more than just genes to my son. Through my actions, words, and decisions, I pass on my values as well. I’d like to say that I pass on my intelligence and good looks too, but I don’t think it will pass the scrutiny of my most critical editor—my wife.

After more than 20 years in the parenting business, I’ve come to realise that the values that most influenced my son’s character development are the ones that we demonstrated before him through our actions, choices, and words, and not the ones that we spoke about. 

If we want to teach that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, then it’s important that we do not convey the opposite message by allowing our actions, decisions, and conversations to revolve around cars, houses, phones, clothes, and stuff. 

There’s nothing wrong in getting nice things, but we don’t want that to be our children’s only motivation in life. They need to care about people instead of stuff.

To teach your child to do good, first teach your child to care.

When my son was young, my wife and I seldom asked him what he wanted on special occasions. As a result, he hardly asks for things for his birthday today. And even when he does, he is almost shy about it. 

On the other hand, we often talk to him about the poor and needy, and involve him in the annual Boy’s Brigade “Share-a-gift” campaign by letting him pick the gift to buy for others. These are not big acts, but they have helped him develop compassion for the needy. 

I believe this is why he has an attitude of giving instead of an attitude of entitlement today. Once, when asked to commit a certain percentage of his National Service allowance to charity, he wrote down a shockingly large number. My wife and I had to try to remain calm as we explained to him the right way to budget! 

To teach your child to do good, first teach your child to care. 

Doing Good in Daily Life

The apostle Paul worked hard as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) to earn an honest living while preaching the gospel. But he didn’t just work to provide for himself—he also worked hard to provide for the needs of those who were incapable of providing for themselves. 

We can integrate the culture of doing good and helping the poor into daily life.

In Acts 20:35, he noted that even while we work hard for our needs, “we must help the weak”. In Galatians 2:10, too, Paul stressed the need to “continue to remember the poor”. Doing good was part of Paul’s lifestyle. It was not an add-on activity to be done on weekends or when he was free. 

Like Paul, we can integrate the culture of doing good and helping the poor into daily life. If we treat it as an optional activity, it will always be an afterthought, subject to our own priorities and wants. 

Simple Ways to Do Good

So how do we integrate “doing good” into family life? Let me suggest a few practical ways:

1. Keep it sustainable

Grand acts of charity are awesome, but these are few and far between. If we keep trying to do big things, we will tire quickly and eventually stop. As Mother Teresa once said: “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Small acts of love can go a big way, and if done often enough, they will turn into a lifelong habit. Talk to your children about what small acts of kindness they can do at home, in school and church.

Small acts of love can go a big way, and if done often enough, they will turn into a lifelong habit.

2. Start with the nearest and dearest

The best way to start a lifestyle of doing good is with the people closest to us—our parents, for example, if they are still around. By showing kindness and love to our parents, we give the best example to our children of what it means to honour your father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Even if our parents are difficult, we can still do good and show kindness anyway. 

3. Expand our reach

Following the structure of Jesus’ great commission to His disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), we start doing good with those closest to us, before moving outwards in an expanding circle.
It’s important to do good first for our parents, then our relatives, our friends, and then everyone else. It makes no sense to spend our time with the lonely in nursing homes, but refuse to visit our parents or sick relatives. In this way, we teach our children consistency and thoughtfulness.

4. Give what we have

When a lame beggar asked Peter and John for alms (Acts 3:1–10), Peter had an interesting response. Staring intently into the beggar’s eyes, he said: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” We are not all rich, but we all have something we can give to the needy. Sometimes all they want is a listening ear, or someone to fetch them to church. We give what we have.

If we obey Jesus’ teaching to care for the needy through simple acts of service consistently, our children will learn the difference between doing good and merely doing well in the world. 


Stephen Chan was a technology manager for more than 20 years before God called him to be a teacher of the Bible. Since 2009, he has been serving in his church’s children’s ministry and working with youths and their parents. Stephen is an author of two family devotion books and is also the teacher of “The Bible is not Chim” equipping class, which is designed to help and inspire Christians to read the Bible.
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