I read somewhere that when it comes to good works most faiths are on pretty much the same page. In other words, most religions call for right living - telling the truth, being kind to others, taking food to the sick, giving to the poor, etc.
This morning as I did my lesson in There is a Season by Laurie Cole, once again, she took me on a mind-bender of sorts. Just as she changed my perspective about reasons to be joyful a few days ago, today she also changed my mind about what it means to do good works.
First, she established the fact that good works are not enough to get you into Heaven. That concept doesn't always make sense to me and I'm indebted to Max Lucado for this illustration, which did make sense to me:
Suppose several people lined up and competed to see who could reach the moon by jumping. Maybe person 1 jumps 3 feet into the air. Maybe person 2 jumps 4 feet into the air. And maybe person 3 (that would be me...) jumps 1 foot into the air! Person 2 is the winner!!!
The goal was to reach the moon and none of them, not even person 2, made it.
Same thing with trying to be good enough to reach God, to be "even" with Him on the standing of good works: total veracity, totally unmixed motives for every deed, totally pure love... you get the idea. It's just a standard that we humans, no matter how "good" we are, can't reach. It's like jumping for the moon...
So God reaches down to us in love, offers us the gift of salvation through His Son, we accept, and now we coast.. right?
Because we've already achieved our goal of getting a reservation in Heaven, right?
Ummm. no. We still have a life to live and that does include "good works". ("Faith without works, Baby, it just ain't happenin' " :)
These are some things that I learned from Laurie Cole's study about living the "good" life:
1. Luke 10:38- 42. Sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from Him. Wow! Can that be a "good work?" Apparently so! But how hard is that in our society today? At first I was stunned to see this labeled as a "good work". Then when I thought about how busy everyone is today, I realized it may be the hardest "good work" of all - just to sit and soak at His feet and enjoy His company.
2. Luke 6:27-35. This "good work" blew me away. I figured it was just a command and I knew full-well I have always had trouble doing it. But I never considered it a good work. It is simply to love your enemies, to do good to those who hurt you, to bless those who have done you harm. Why is this a good work? Because it identifies you with your Heavenly Father, who blesses the wicked every day with sunshine, rain, the breath of life... not because they deserve it but because of who He is.
3. Matt. 5:13-16. Another thing I learned, genuinely good works are like a spotlight illuminating Christ, not drawing others into our limelight but rather into His. So if my "good works" result in drawing an adoring fan club around me (hasn't happened yet but still....:), then my works (no matter how they look to others), um, aren't so good...
4. James 2:14-16. Good works do involve meeting the needs of others. I can't just wish someone a happy life, knowing that they are sick, hungry, etc. That's not the way of Christ and it can't be my way either.
So give to the poor, help the sick, bust out the traditional "do-good" list. But at the top, put time alone with Jesus. And right below that put, lovin' on my enemies...'cause that's what He would be doing... And throughout the day, check ever so often to see who is being spotlighted by the things that are being said and done.