The story goes that a farmer was plowing with a mule when the mule suddenly fell over dead. This was the farmer's only mule. He had no money with which to buy another mule. He solved his problem by raffling off the dead mule.

He posted fliers announcing a raffle for a mule, conveniently omitting the fact the mule was dead. He raised enough money selling tickets to buy himself a new mule. Someone later suggested to him this was dishonest. The farmer answered the accusation saying, "Well, there was only one guy who was really upset, and I gave him is money back."

I used to hear farmers tell this story in eastern North Carolina, where I first began working in ministry. They claimed the story was true. I suspect it was something of a parable. The farmers who told the story were not glorifying dishonesty. They were glorifying shrewdness. The story is about being clever.

While Christians are not encouraged to be dishonest, they are encouraged to be clever. The good guys need to be as clever about doing good things as the bad guys are about doing bad things.

Sad as it is to contemplate, the fact is there are plenty of people out there conniving to do bad things. Millions of Americans are defrauded and billions of dollars are lost every year. It has been estimated merchants lose approximately $190 billion a year to credit card fraud alone. Scammers buy and sell "sucker lists" with the names of people they have scammed. This second layer of scammers call those who already have been scammed, promising to get back the money lost or the prize or merchandise never received. They do this, of course, for an up-front fee. Scammers target the vulnerable.

In the face of all this conniving to do bad things, Christians, and everyone concerned for the welfare of fellow human beings, need to be intentional about doing good things. Plan to do good. Be just as intentional about giving to help the vulnerable as others are intentional about taking from the vulnerable. Go beyond helping only if the occasion arises. Give extra thought to doing good deeds. Be clever.

Perhaps there are many of us who make a habit in the evening of reflecting on what we might have done wrong that day with an intention to amend our lives. That is a good practice.

Go further. Get up in the morning and ask yourself, "What good can I do for someone today?"

Deacon Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church, Hays.