Good Works

Good Works

Good works are more a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing (see Matt. 6:3).

~ David Zahl

Dear People of God,

This year Easter is April 9. Mark your calendars! In these weeks leading up to Easter many Christians observe what is called the season of Lent. Observing this season is neither here nor there. We are free in Christ to observe it or not to observe it. Choosing to observe it does not make you a better or more holy Christian than another. Choosing not to observe it does not make you a better or more holy Christian than another. Many Christians choose to use Lent to renew their spiritual vigor. Fasting, praying, and giving to the poor are the most attested to. Generally, Lent is a tool to increase one’s good works in one way or another.

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If we are to do any of these things, we must keep these words of Jesus close to our ears: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 6:1). In other words, whatever good things you do, do not let other people know of it. Do not make a show of it. One bumbling fool might gloat “I gave the server such a big tip!” That bumbling fool has no reward beyond that now.

The key we have comes here: “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:3-4). This means that when you are doing good works, not even you know that you are doing them. Only our heavenly Fathers knows. And he will reward. Sometimes Lutherans and other Protestants get accused of having abolished doing good works.

Even some Protestants will say “We don’t believe in good works.” But this is not true. We believe in good works. Good works are to be done incessantly, all the time, and without any gratitude or expectation of return. Good works are to be done by us for all people—and especially to our enemies and our foes. Lutherans and Protestants believe good works are to be done, but we do not trust in our works for salvation. Faith alone in the Christ is what saves. Good works are the fruit of the faith God has given us. And because God has given us this faith, the fruit is bears will be exponential. But we do not know that we are doing them.

Of this faith Luther once said: “O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them.”

Freely. Christ is yours, that’s what we do know, dear people.

Lenten Blessings,
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY