Before the Wicked Witch of the West began haunting Dorothy and her friends in “The Wizard of Oz,” she was actually a nice witch who was good friends with the Good Witch of the North, according to “The Wicked” musical. However, when attempt after attempt of trying to good fails, she gives up on being the good witch, exclaiming: “no good deed will I do again!” There are times when we try to do the right thing, but we fail, and so we start to doubt whether it was the right thing to do, and we get discouraged from doing good. Moses felt the same way when he tried to obey God’s instructions to speak to Pharaoh, only for his plan to backfire spectacularly (Exodus 5:1-23).
When Right Seems Wrong
Moses followed God’s instructions to speak to Pharaoh, in order to let the Israelites go. However, Pharaoh said no. Furthermore, Pharaoh reacted by increasing the Israelites’ burdens. Because of the increased burdens, the Israelites began to complain to Moses, and rebuked him for speaking to Pharaoh. Moses appeared to be the bad guy for bringing about all these hardships upon his fellow Israelites. Because of all these repercussions, Moses himself was confused, and began to doubt and question God. He doubted his usefulness as God’s messenger; he doubted God’s intentions; he doubted God’s ability to save the Israelites (Exodus 5:1-23).
There are times when the right thing seems to be the wrong thing, because of negative consequences that happen, instead of the expected result. Furthermore, we may appear to be the villain in the eyes of those whom we had actually tried to help. When such happens, we may stop trying to do the right thing. We may doubt our usefulness. We may even doubt God.
Why Right Seems Wrong
The right action may seem to be wrong because of unmet expectations. Oftentimes, our expectations may be unreasonable in the first place, because we expected instant results; or else, we expected success to look exactly like what we had envisioned. Therefore we get disappointed when our expectations are not met. Moses probably thought that the only way for success was if Pharaoh said yes. What Moses did not realize – and often we also do not realize – is that God may have other plans for us.
The right action may seem to be wrong because of negative consequences that happen. Many times, these consequences arise from elements that are beyond our control. Pharaoh’s decisions and actions were certainly beyond Moses’ control. Also, bad things often happen when men reject the truth. Stephen was stoned to death because the Jews did not like the things he was preaching (Acts 7:54, 58).
When bad things happen, that is when complaints start to come in as well. The Israelites were unhappy with Moses for speaking to Pharaoh and causing all this trouble. What many do not realize is that we often have to suffer for doing the right thing. God does not promise a bed of roses for His faithful people, but rather, He promises persecution for those who would live in a godly fashion (2 Timothy 3:12). However, the occurrence of negative consequences or complaints does not necessarily mean that our actions were wrong.
But Right Is Not Wrong
The right thing is not based on our external circumstances, but on God’s standard. The negative consequences that happened – i.e. Pharaoh saying no, and increasing the Israelites’ burdens – do not make Moses’ actions wrong. Rather, Moses’ actions were right, because God had commanded so. It is God who decides what is right and wrong, not men (Proverbs 16:25). God’s standard of right and wrong does not change with circumstances.
Seeing that the right action may not yield immediate results, we must persist in doing the right thing. Moses did not realize that, even if Pharaoh said no, God could still make it a success. Eventually, with Moses’ persistence in going before Pharaoh repeatedly, God was able to demonstrate His power through the ten plagues, and in the end, God did save the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Therefore, we must persevere, and not grow weary in doing the right thing, knowing that “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Although we may not understand why the right action did not work out, we must trust not in our own understanding, but in God who will direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-7).
Above all, we must be prepared to suffer for doing the right thing. Since ancient times, the prophets of God suffered for doing God’s bidding. It is certainly much better that we suffer for doing the right thing, than to suffer for wrong-doing (1 Peter 3:17). Let us not give up in doing the right thing, but draw comfort that we will eventually be rewarded for our faithfulness to God: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10)