Doing good works is a fundamental aspect of being a Christian, and even unbelievers are capable of doing many great works (some of which put believers to shame!). We are called to not only have faith in Christ but to also do the things that Christ did. St. Paul tells us that God has ordained good works that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). We are exhorted countless times in the New Testament to do good works for our fellow men, both our brothers and sisters in the faith as well as our enemies. That being said, not everyone who does good works is following Christ. There are some people that I like to call “good jerks,” i.e. people who do good deeds on the outside but on the inside their hearts are not right with God. For these people, their motives for doing good deeds are not the same as the motivations of a person whose heart is right with God.
The person who truly loves God will do good deeds not because he seeks praise or reward, but because he truly loves his fellowmen and desires to help him without any reward. He does not go around bragging about his good deeds, telling everyone that he helped the widows or saved the orphans. He tells no one, and it is God who will reward him at the Last Judgment.
The second type of man practices good deeds because he seeks a reward and praise for what he has done. He is like the Pharisees who were very holy looking upon the outside, while being spiritually dead on the inside. These people usually like to talk about God and religion a lot, telling people about their churches, wearing clothes that have faith-slogans on them or bumper stickers with phrases like “Jesus is my co-pilot.” This type of person will do good deeds for others, but he will then go and tell someone else that he did so in order to receive a pat on the back or some sort of praise for what he did. I have known people in my personal life who were like this. One such fellow was an Oneness Pentecostal minister that I was once acquainted with.
This fellow was named Bobby, and he was an unlicensed minister within an Oneness Pentecostal denomination. He was very active within his church, and loved to go around talking about Jesus all the time. In fact, one of the things he liked to do was softly sing “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” to himself when he was around others. He would also do very good things like help out the elderly members of his church, and give people money to help them out. This sounds all very good and well, but the other side of the coin is that Bobby liked to brag about the good deeds that he did. Bobby would often tell me or other people how he helped this old widow fix her car or how he felt “led by the Lord” to give this one lady a twenty-dollar bill. Bobby also loved telling people that he was a minister, and he would love to tell me what a great service his church had the previous Sunday (he preached of course!). He would even like to pray for people in public in a loud voice for all those around him to hear. A person might read this and say to himself “Bobby was just unashamed of his faith and was giving God the glory!” But friends, what does our Lord say about such behavior?
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” – Matthew 6:1-7
Here is what the Lord said about not following after the ways of the Pharisees. The Pharisees did many good deeds, tithing, helping the needy, etc. but they were “good jerks.” They loved going around bragging about their good works and about how they were teachers in the synagogues etc. Our friend Bobby was like the Pharisees in that he too liked bragging about his good works to others. He was no doubt well thought about by many of the people that knew him, but they did not see the side of Bobby that I did. I saw the mean, spiteful, judgmental side of him that reminded me of the Pharisees every time he condemned a woman for not dressing how he thought she should, or how he would tell me that unless you speak in tongues you were not truly saved. He could fool other Christians, but he could never fool me.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that we should all be doing good works in this life, but we should make sure that we are doing them for the right reasons. We should not do them for praise or for rewards in this life, but we should do them because we love others and desire nothing in return. So if you help an orphan or widow this week, do not go around and tell others about it. Do not be a “good jerk.”