Christianity was supposed to be about becoming like Jesus. We went in the wrong direction.
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Good Works


I was raised in a home that had a strong Lutheran influence. As a child I frequently heard derisive comments about Catholics who believed in “good works”. I remember asking myself, “Why would “good works” be a bad thing.” I later came to understand that they were saying that Catholics thought they earned their way into heaven by doing good works. I still thought my parents and grandparents were being inaccurate, unfair, and that mocking others was a poor example of Christianity.

In looking at the subject of good works outside of denominational distinctives we have a wealth of information about Israel and what God required of them in the bible. The law for Israel consisted of the ten commandments and the 613 Mosaic laws. To flesh this out thousands of additional requirements were written in the Talmud and the Mishnah.

A lot of the law concerned what not to do and how to do ceremonial acts. However, there were also requirements for “good works” such as providing care for widows and orphans, the poor, sojourners, and to not charge usury on loans. However, as it is with any, people can find ways around them and convince themselves that they haven’t done anything wrong like the Pharisees who would steal houses from widows (Mat 23:14).

For Israel keeping the law (including good works) was the way to obtain righteousness and the hope of the resurrection of the just. However, many in Israel (including the Sadducees) did not even believe in a resurrection. Some Christians today try to apply the requirements for Israel to themselves including keeping the law, tithing, and good works. It can be a poor fit because Christians are not supposed to obtain righteousness, we already have the righteousness of Christ (Phil 3:9).

The question for Christians is that why would one do good works if they do not have to in order to get to heaven. The answer is that for Israel death represented the transition to eternal life for the righteous. For Christians there has been an equivalent “death” when we trusted in Christ. It is in this newness of life (Rom 7:6) that we are expected to show the love of Christ in service to others (2 Cor 5:15).

In this new and eternal life we have in Christ we are to do good works (Gal 6:10) to our fellow Christians in particular. There is an expectation that as Christians we would grow and mature in our knowledge of the bible and as a result we would be complete and equipped for good works (2 Tim 3:17). Part of our contribution to good works is our choice to not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit so his “fruit” could be produced in us (Gal 5:22-25).

Having Christ in us gives us an advantage over those of Israel. We do not need a list of rules as we grow in love (1 Cor 13:4-7) we become less selfish and self-focused. We become more aware of those around us and their needs. If we have material assets, we may have an opportunity to share what we have (Eph 4:28). If we have time, we might be able to share that. If we have knowledge, that also could be shared.

For the Christian, good works are less a transaction to earn reward, than simply the way God would have us live.


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