At the end of my sermon “Sometimes it’s dangerous to ‘think’ like a Christian,” I quickly listed out nine (9) biblical examples of “good works.” I thought these were helpful in determining if our faith produces the “good” works that James argues should be present in the life of a true believer. These are offered in hopes that you will evaluate your own “good works” against the biblical examples listed below.
1. Our works should cause others to look towards God and not man (Matthew 5:16) – Whether it be in the local church or out in the world, our motivation for service and ministry should always be to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Serving and ministering for any other reason cannot be considered a good work, and when tried by fire will produce wood, hay and straw (1 Cor. 3:12-15)
2. We perform these works as if we were doing them for Christ Himself (Matthew 25:35) – Man views areas of service and ministry differently than God view them. Some are exciting opportunities, whereas others are, how shall we say…necessary. Some ministry tasks are visible to others, while others may never be seen by anyone. Regardless of the significance of a task, whenever it is done for Christ it will produce gold, silver and precious stones on the day of judgment.
3. These works may sometimes involve a willing sacrifice (Mark 14:6) – Mary was willing to sacrifice approximately 300 days worth of her wages whenever she spilled the ointment over Christ’s feet. Anyone can give, but it takes a life truly changed by the work of the Holy Spirit to enjoy offering such a sacrifice.
4. These works would resemble the works we’ve seen from Old Testament saints and Jesus Himself (John 8:39) – When reading the Old Testament stories, look at how these saints interacted with other people. Do our works of service and ministry resemble what we’ve read? Does our response resemble Jesus’ response to those He encountered?
5. These works are accomplished through God’s grace and the abilities He has given to us. (2 Cor. 9:8) – Service can be done in one of two ways, either in man’s strength or by the strength of God. We will depend upon one or the other in order to perform our task. The works that will stand will be those accomplished through the strength of the Holy Spirit.
6. Our works have been chosen beforehand, so we accomplish them from the position of obedience (Eph. 2:10) – We perform these works through daily submission and obedience to the will of God. He will bring about opportunities for us to perform good works, and therefore it is unnecessary for us to go looking for these opportunities. We should serve right where we are through obedience to Him and His word.
7. These works strengthen our faith in Christ (2 Thess. 2:17) – The result of these works will be an increased faith in the ability of Christ to use you in His kingdom work.
8. These works are visible (1 Timothy 5:25) – God desires us to be salt and light in a dark world, and not to be hid under a bushel. Certainly there will be good works that only God will see, but a life that has truly been changed by the Gospel cannot help but be noticed by others.
9. These works are consistent (Titus 2:7) – Our lives should reveal a pattern of good works, not just a one time event. Our life should demonstrate that we’ve been truly changed; therefore every aspect of our life should reveal this change. We should be known for our good works because they reveal what we have become, a new creature in Christ.
I hope this list in helpful to you in identifying the difference between “works” and “good works.” Take time to evaluate your specific areas of ministry. Are you serving Christ the right way and for the right reason?