What Good Works Are Good For

Work Sign

In his letter to Titus, Paul emphasizes the importance of good works.

He tells Titus “to be a model of good works”.

Those God redeems are to be “zealous for good works.”

And we are “to be ready for every good work.”

Those who believe in God are “to devote themselves to good works.

At the same time Paul makes clear that though good works are important, they are not good for everything. One thing in particular they are not good for: saving ourselves.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:4-6).

So we are to be diligent in doing good works, but good works do not save us. So why do good works? Some would say …

to prove we are really saved, or

to show our appreciation to God, or

to keep in God’s favor

If these are your reasons for good works, you may find yourself quickly turning the good news of what Jesus did for you into the not-so-good news that a relationship with God depends on your works. People on this road find an ever increasing burden of wondering: If good works prove I’m saved, how many are enough to feel good about me and God? I’ve tried to show appreciation to God, but I’m sure I could have show more. I need to read the Bible so I’ll have a good day …

Stop. Return to the good news: God our Savior saved you not because of your works, but because of his work for you. When Jesus said, “It is finished” He announced the end to the futile attempt to work for God’s favor.

So why do good works? Paul states it most clearly at the end of his letter where he says,

“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).

We do good works for our neighbor. God is fully satisfied with the work of Jesus on our behalf. He does not need our good works, but our neighbor does. God uses our good works performed through our vocations to provide daily bread for us and our neighbor.

Think of it this way: the grace of God comes down to us (vertically) and as we believe that grace is poured out through us (horizontally) to our neighbor. The vertical is all God. The horizontal is God working through us to our neighbor. The vertical is a one way street – grace flows down. Our good works never flow up.

In answer to the question, “How many good works are enough to prove I’m saved?” I would answer “One: Jesus’ work for you is sufficient. Now go, free from the burden of earning God’s favor, and love your neighbor.”