"Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:4-5
My works will not save me. I’ve known this all my life, but tonight I understand it more.
I live to help others to the best of my ability. I’m not quite sure if I’m trying to please them in order to seek approval, but I know I find joy when I can assist others. On the other hand, when I can’t help or feel like a nuisance, I beat myself up for not being the best.
I’ve expected to be fired from almost every job I’ve had when I’ve messed up. I’ve made bets with myself that I lost a friend because I said something wrong. I’ve believed that my boyfriend would break up with me because I was a brat at times. But these things have fortunately never come to fruition. And each time, it surprised me.
But now I’m understanding that these weren’t instances of their blindness to my mistakes—they were times of grace.
God functions in a similar way. See, we know our works can’t save us, but if I look at the way I live, my actions say I believe otherwise. There have been nights where I laid in bed questioning whether or not I truly was saved because I just seemed to have messed up too much or too often. I chastise myself when I don’t read the Bible and apologize profusely to God when I sin. It may seem like that’s good, but I know deep down it’s driven by a fear that I won’t make it to heaven. I won’t meet the minimum standard for what a Christian does or says or looks like, and then I’ll be left sitting outside the gates of heaven.
But Romans 4:4-5 tells me different. In fact, if I continue trying to work to earn the love God has given me, then I am refusing His gift of grace and making sure it’s an obligation He paid in advance. It’s like getting a birthday gift from a friend, asking “How can I ever repay you?” and then actually repaying them. We know our friends would refuse the money and say, “No, it’s a gift!" God is the same.
If we reject His gift and insist on it being a payment, then we won’t receive grace at all. And then we are left with nothing but our works that lead us nowhere.
So what do we do then? Avoid doing good so that we receive His grace? As Paul says, “By no means!” Our actions are to be a response of love to His love, not for His love.
What are your motives for doing good?