A member of our church asked me a question recently that, truth be told, may be a question many have. The question was, “Does doing more for the Lord (eg, working more, volunteering, etc.) make us a better Christian?” One of the verses we could turn to in dealing with that issue is in James where we are told, “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (2:14-26 ) In this instance, “deeds” or doing good deeds or works is portrayed as evidence that one’s faith is genuine. Can you be considered a true Christ follower and do nothing to show it? Of course Jesus also said, “By your fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20) Does fruit imply good works or good deeds? These are hard questions for us to wrap our thoughts around, and to convince ourselves that we can either amplify grace in our lives by doing more good “stuff” or have grace subtracted because we are not “doing enough” is to misunderstand the nature of salvation.
The Bible teaches “by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves… it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) So we see here clearly that it is grace through faith that produces salvation, not what we do however busy or well intentioned we may seem in our efforts. There are many well-intentioned, workaholic Christians who have transferred a Puritan work ethic and overlayed it on how God saves us. That negates a Gospel of pure grace. We are not saved by what we can do FOR God, but from what we did TO God through our sin. Jesus died on the cross to pay that penalty once and for all… completely. Nothing we can do negates that. Nothing we do can add to that. It is by grace.
So then, where do our “good deeds” fit? Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which the Lord prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The Lord has a prepared, measured amount of work that He expects of us. It is always in line with our giftedness, it always brings joy to us when we do it, and it is always an assignment that we are uniquely gifted to accomplish.
In short, an authentic Christian who has been saved by grace will also show evidence of that salvation by tangible deeds and works. However, to “try” harder and to “do” more to gain a higher standing as a Christian is a vain activity at best. The rewards spoken of in the Bible are for acts of obedience to the Gospel, for standing fast in difficulty, and for walking faithfully with the Master, but our standing with God is ultimately based on His goodness and His work at the cross on our behalf, not on our works for him.
We can’t be a ‘better’ Christian.. …. only an obedient one!