The Bible includes the ancient proverb "He that sows righteousness has a sure reward" (The Jerusalem Bible, Prov. 11:18).
But a friend of mine says, "Yeah, sure."
She believes the proverb should read, "No good deed goes unpunished." That explains for her why relatives nursing loved ones sometimes fall sick themselves, why firefighters sometimes die trying to save others, and why journalists are sometimes imprisoned or kidnapped while conscientiously reporting the truth of what they have heard and seen.
I understand my friend's point, but I also have seen for myself that goodness does have a sure reward. We may not receive that reward today or tomorrow, but we will receive it.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, assured us that "there is more life and immortality in one good motive and act, than in all the blood which ever flowed through mortal veins...." ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 376).
Whenever it seems that my friend's saying - rather than the Bible's proverb - is playing out in my life or on the world stage, I remember the summer day camp I attended as a preteen. The camp had one counselor whom I avoided, a young man whose focus on athletics made him especially competitive and whom I found intimidating.
One day he was involved in an incident in which someone was hurt. I was not involved, but by chance I witnessed it. The next day I learned that this counselor had been held responsible for the incident and was dismissed from his job. But what I saw indicated that he was not responsible.
Others (including counselors who were present) clearly felt he was responsible. Perhaps they knew more than I did? But I knew what I had seen, and I knew that one of God's demands is that we be truthful. So the next morning, I knocked on the camp owner's door and told her what I had seen. My knees wobbled as I told her because I had no idea how she would react, but she listened kindly to what I had to say and thanked me.
The following day the counselor was back. He showed no sign of knowing that I had anything to do with his reinstatement, and I certainly never mentioned it. In fact, I forgot about it until years later when I met my high school guidance counselor.
This counselor greeted me with a warm handshake and these words: "I'll never forget what you did for my son." It took me a few minutes to piece together that his son was the counselor who had been reinstated at the camp. How amazing to me that anyone still remembered this good deed!
And I was more amazed three years later, when I had the opportunity to attend college a year early. I had been accepted into my first-choice college, awarded a scholarship, and was ready to go ... except for one thing. My dad felt strongly that this was not the right step. Nothing seemed able to persuade him otherwise, and without his support, college was inconceivable.
When I told my guidance counselor, he tenderly assured me not to fear, that I would indeed be going to college that fall. There was no doubt about it. He would talk to my dad, and I would go to college.
He was right. He met with my dad (whom he had never met before), and that evening my dad signed the papers for college.
When I asked my guidance counselor how he had persuaded my dad, he only smiled like the Cheshire cat, and to this day I do not know. But I do know this: A good deed has its sure reward, even if years pass before we receive it. "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth" (New Revised Standard Version, Ps. 58:11).