Even today, decent people consider the sick, the outsider, the depressed, the ignorant, the hungry in their communities and families and also people they will never meet. Some people do ambitious things for charity, raising huge amounts of money. Most people sense that reaching beyond their own self makes them more grounded, human and spiritually 'larger'.
But is this true? How does God see these good works? The answer is rather surprising : our good deeds are ‘dirty rags’ to Him. They are so mixed with other less noble motivation and conceived by such impure hearts that they are not worth a candle in terms of solving what our real problem is, which is 'self'. This is quite evident if we ask ourselves honestly, “Does doing good deeds make me a better person?”. The honest answer is “No”. To become a better person one needs a radical reversal of one’s character, even a complete overhaul of certain parts of one’s brain.
Doing good deeds does not get anyone into Heaven. The idea of meritorious works does not exist in Holy Scripture. The fact is that some people are much more equipped to do good, and a lot of it, by their loving parents, teachers and social resources, than others. What about those without these advantages? God cares about them, too. This doctrine is a great leveller.
The Holy Scriptures teach this:
- Good works may come from blind zeal, the desire for the favour or esteem of others, or ourselves or God, or from the pretence of good intentions. This intermixing of motives makes all good deeds sinful, since the only reason to do good works purified from self and sin, is for the glory of God alone.
- Good deeds cannot help us bargain with God. Thinking of good deeds as a counterweight for guilt is like trying to pay for something with a stopped chequebook : the cheque is invalid.
- The good deeds of Christians are accepted by God if they come from faith. But even then they are only deemed acceptable for the sake of Christ and because the power to do them comes from God’s Spirit.
- Christians must do the good works commanded in the Scriptures, or they will draw God’s displeasure upon them. Even if they do them to their utmost ability and beyond, they must not be under any illusion that through their good deeds, their sins are forgiven. Their sins are only blotted out at Christ’s Cross.
- When they have done them, they are still ‘unprofitable servants’ and have no merit in God’s eyes from doing them, at all. Having said, that there are rewards in Heaven for work done for Christ on earth.
Why is this taught - about goodness itself? Because God will not accept the proud and arrogant - including those who are proud and arrogant because they believe He owes them something, on account of their good works. He humbles pride - which He cannot bear.