Leaving It Better

The Boy Scouts have an unofficial motto when it comes to campsites: Leave it better than you found it. In my opinion, this would make an excellent mission statement for Christians and their churches. As a result of our efforts (individually and collectively), the world should be a better place (spiritually and morally).
Several proverbs speak about the positive influence of the righteous, and the negative influence of the wicked.[1]
Influence is expressed through what we say and how we say it.
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed (11:11).
Mockers stir up a city,
but wise men turn away anger (29:8).
Are we known as people who bless others through our words, or do our mouths mock and stir up anger? Do people walk away from a conversation with you or from a sermon informed by the truth and inspired to put it to work, or do they walk away more ignorant and depressed?
Influence is also expressed by what actions we inspire people to take.
A violent man entices his neighbor
and leads him down a path that is not good (16:29).
He who leads the upright along an evil path
will fall into his own trap,
but the blameless will receive a good inheritance (28:10).
When the wicked thrive, so does sin,
but the righteous will see their downfall (29:16).
The true test of influence is not what we say, or even how people feel as a result of what we say. No! The true test of influence is what people do as the result of spending time with us. Do people love God, neighbor, and self as a result of our influence, or do they hate God, neighbor, and self because of us?
Influenced is expressed by words and deeds. It is felt first of all in the home.
The righteous man leads a blameless life;
blessed are his children after him (20:7).
But real influence spreads beyond your home’s four walls and into the community at large.
Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people (14:34).
When the righteous triumph, there is great elation;
but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding (28:12).
When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive (28:28).
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan (29:2).
“A rising tide,” in the words of an old aphorism, “lifts all boats.” I think that is correct. When parents influence their children positively, their children in turn influence their community positively. And a positive community is a great place in which to raise good children. Private influence and public influence are symbiotic; they feed off and mutually support one another.
At the end of each day, we should ask ourselves a simple question: Did we leave it better than we found it? The only right answer is yes.

[1] Tremper Longman III, Proverbs (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 565.

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