Dirty hands

I’ve made it a point in my life to always choose to be passionate enough to act. On injustice. On tragedy. On inequality. On anything that stirs my spirit, stabs at my soul, screams for action.

Often I have to force myself to do it. I have to choose to act because, of course, I’d rather not do it. But I’ve determined that my preference for the easy way out shouldn’t be what determines my footsteps.

During the American invasion of Iraq that followed 9/11, I paid to have a T-shirt made that said in huge black letters, NO WAR, and I wore that down Orchard Road. I got more high-fives from strangers that day than any other day of my life, a brotherhood of strangers united in despair.

In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, I headed straight for the Red Cross, Salvation Army – whoever I thought would be doing something to help those afflicted. I helped pack care packages, fill containers with clothes, blankets and canned food. I fell out with friends who wouldn’t join me.

In my years as a scuba divemaster, I became a passionate marine environmentalist – a fish-hugger – and for almost a decade cut all seafood out of my diet, in solidarity with the sharks. I’m sure you have an argument about how pointless that is, but the point is that I felt compelled to act on my beliefs.

You may find this next example lame, but it was all we could think of at the time. After Lee Kuan Yew died, on the first day of the public wake, after my 16-hour shift at the newsdesk, I wanted to do something – anything – to help.

So I brought my wife and kids out to the hours-long queue of people waiting to pay their last respects to the founding Prime Minister at Parliament House. We came armed with bags full of lollipops and we started giving them out down the line. By the next day, many other individuals and retailers had joined in with food freebies to those waiting in queue.

For a decade now I’ve been giving evenings over to ministry, service, small group sessions, often sacrificing evenings with the family for the sake of others. So that, in whatever small way, I can be there for a brother or sister in need.

About 18 months ago, I quit my better paying, more influential position in a mainstream newsroom to do what you see here now – Thir.st. I do this in the hope we can make some kind of impact, to transform a generation one story at a time, with a wisdom greater than what humans can conceive.

Was all that I’ve done useful? I’m not sure. You never really know if the aid makes it to its intended destination, or how it gets distributed. I definitely didn’t manage to stop the war in Iraq.

What I do know is that if I had done nothing, I definitely would have helped no one. And so I act. To the best of my knowledge, ability, and capacity. I check my heart to make sure I’m not doing this for any personal gain or pride. So that I can go out with clean hands, and get them dirty.

The last two days I’ve been watching unlikely political commentators responding to the unimaginable bloodshed committed at Las Vegas. Comedy talk show host after talk show host has hit pause on their punchlines to implore for action on gun control.

The repeated refrain: We need to do something.



I watch these videos and I’m reminded we cannot let up on the passion to make this world a little bit better for someone, somehow. In the face of news, tragedy, disaster, humanity – we need to do something.

There is a reason Thir.st has a category called “Do Good”. It is the hardest sell of all. It’s so easy to get people to read about relationships. Or work. Or Church life. These things concern and consume you.

But in the lead-up to the launch of Thir.st, I kept reading verse after verse in the Bible repeat two words, again and again:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (Psalm 37:3)

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17)

Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:12)

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)

Do good. Do good. Do good.

My quiet time of late has been from the book of Zechariah, where there’s a repeated exhortation:

This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)

“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord. (Zechariah 8:16-17)

Do good. Anything else, God hates.

Maybe you read Thir.st because you appreciate knowing that others have the same struggles as you, and you know you’re not alone. Maybe you’re on this site because you’re looking for spiritual lens through which to process life and all its complications. Maybe you’re here to draw encouragement from the stories of people whose lives have rounded some corner, by grace.

Now you’re here, can I implore you and point you down a road that will help you: Do good.

It is the lesson of the Good Samaritan. It doesn’t matter what status or title you hold if you aren’t loving your neighbour in a way that matters to him.

It is the model of the early church, as seen in Acts 4:32-35. Look for those in need – and meet those needs.

It is the plea of James 1:27. What is true, pure, faultless religion? Not solely inward sanctification, but also outward action.

Do good. Not for the plaudits. Not out of religious obligation. Not to clock up crowns. Not to feel good.

For goodness’ sake – do good because that’s why we exist. We are here to glorify our Creator. The most meaningful way is by earning the trust, gratitude and love of those for whom we do good. So we reflect the goodness of our God, and earn the right to share the Gospel.

Anything less – indifference, insouciance, apathy, avoidance – is scorning the mercy we have ourselves been shown. Remember Romans 12:1 – what we do with our bodies, we do in light of God’s mercy.

Do good. Find a cause. Identify a need. Join a ministry. Align and arm this with Biblical exhortation, and watch your giftings multiply.

Do good. Sacrifice some personal pleasure. Hold back on some other extravagance. Get out of your comfort zone. Go.

Do good. The Bible has to repeat it so often because, and you know this in your heart of hearts, the human instinct is to do otherwise. To opt for selfish ambition rather than selfless action, to do the easier thing rather than the harder, helpful one.

Also, the President has a point, no matter how ungrammatically stated: When you do good, do together. The redemptive community has a multiplier effect, and keeps each other on course when the going gets discouraging (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Do good to reflect your good God. You act on His commission, His commandments. You tune in to His heartbeat, and you broadcast His hope.

When you do good, you do God.

About the author

Edric Sng

Edric has spent a lifetime in mainstream and digital newsrooms, and has the waistline to prove it. He is a lapsed divemaster, a father to five and husband to one. Could use more sleep.