The Bible has much to say about good works. If asked, most people would say they strive to do them. Yet, few truly understand what good works really are!
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How often have you answered your phone to hear a voice on the other end asking you to give money to support this or that charity? How many times have you seen television commercials asking for your support of the underprivileged, needy, homeless or hungry?
And then there are the countless telethons and music concerts to which people from all walks of life give their time and money. Celebrities often lend their names in support of disease research, environmental causes, and efforts to relieve suffering around the world—giving millions of dollars of their money.
Many sincere, caring individuals spend multiple hours in community service. They perform volunteer work helping to feed the hungry. They work in homeless shelters, serving in soup lines. They build homes for Habitat for Humanity and the like. Still others visit prison inmates or work with abused women and children in shelters.
Then others, considered by most to be religious, give years of their life (sometimes their entire life) to performing missionary work in remote parts of the world. One might call to mind Mother Teresa, who, having no children of her own, spent her lifetime trying to relieve the suffering of third-world children.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, some 59 million people performed volunteer work between September 2001 and September 2002, spending a median of 52 hours volunteering during the year. Roughly 28 percent of volunteers reported giving between 100 to almost 500 hours of their time. Most of this volunteering was done by religious organizations.
And certainly not to be forgotten are all the corporations and major sports leagues, as well as the athletes, who contribute to various causes.
There are over 1.4 million charities, including religious organizations, in the United States alone, with 70 percent of households contributing in some fashion.
Consider: Total charitable giving reached an estimated $240.92 billion for 2002, a historic level, lifted by growth in giving from corporations and estates, according to Giving USA, a report released by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy.
Of course, most people feel the desire to help in whatever way they can. They might give in smaller ways, such as donating clothes or blood to the Red Cross, or tossing a few dollars into the container for Ronald McDonald House, found inside most McDonald's restaurants.
Very few people desire to be thought of as not wanting or willing to support a “good cause.” How often have you heard people say they would give their time or money as long as it is for a good cause? Would not most consider such actions good works? Of course they would! No one would even venture to call works such as these bad, wrong or evil.
Even in the secular world, the belief is that by getting involved in these causes— doing their part through “good works”—the goal of making this world a better place can be achieved. This is especially true among those who have strong “Christian” beliefs. They believe it is actually required of them—that it is their duty as Christians to “spread the kingdom of God.” After all, Jesus Christ stated, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Even the apostle Paul later wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Certainly these scriptures command us to make the world a better place—right? Are not the examples above the good works that Christians must perform? Should not everyone strive to work in soup lines, raise money for charities, etc.?
Consider this: Did you know it is possible to do all of these works in Christ's name and His reply will be “I never knew you: depart from Me” (Matt. 7:23)? How could this be? And if these things are not good works, then what are?
Few ever stop to consider world conditions today, and how the world has come to be this way. Why the ever-increasing suffering, sickness, disease, homelessness, ignorance, unrest, wars and world troubles? What is the cause of all these world conditions? Despite all of mankind's efforts, none of these problems have been solved or eradicated—rather, they only grow worse! All of man's efforts—all his works—have amounted to prescribing aspirin to cure cancer.
Man does not understand that he really does not have good works. Therefore, he never gets to the cause, only treating the effects. The Bible records that “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 16:25). It is man's ways—his works—which are the cause of all the troubles in the world.
It is a matter of cause and effect. Because of iniquity—lawlessness—the world is cut off from God (Isa. 59:1-3). And the human race is simply receiving the wages, in the form of pain, suffering, wars and the like, for the works people have performed. This may seem unbelievable, but it is true nonetheless.
Titus 1:16 states, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” People can literally say they know God, performing what many consider good deeds, even in Christ's name. Yet by their works, they show that they do not truly follow what Christ taught.
How is this so? Christ's own words provide the answer: “Not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? And in Your name have cast out devils? And in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity [lawlessness]” (Matt. 7:21-23).
Outwardly, most people appear to do good, yet, in their private lives, they practice lawlessness—the breaking of God's Law, His Ten Commandments. This is why the world is the way it is! Violation of God's perfect law of love has produced the world in which we live.
A young man approached Jesus and asked, “Good Master, what good thing [work] shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Christ replied, “Why call you Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:16-17). Keeping the laws of God automatically brings blessings. Keeping them produces true peace, joy, prosperity, health, happy families, abundant living—and eventually leads to eternal life.
Concluding that the kingdom of God is here on earth now, many feel that it is their “Christian duty” to spread it worldwide, through good works. But the kingdom is not here! (To learn more, you may request our free booklet What Is the Kingdom of God?)
In addition to keeping the Commandments, God expects those who are called—who understand His truth—to also support His Work (Luke 17:10).
At this time, God has called a few out of this world for a special purpose. His Church is called to do His Work of preaching the gospel of the “kingdom of God” (Matt. 24:14), teaching the full truth to “all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20) and warning (Ezek. 33:1-19) the modern-day nations descended from ancient Israel of what is coming and why!
These are the true good works for which we were created!