Can't Buy Me Joy
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Ephesians 2:8-10
Works don’t save you. Jesus saves you. And you don’t have to earn or pay for your salvation; it comes to you by grace, through faith. But that doesn’t mean that doing good works is actually bad.
Wait. What? You might be wondering: “How could anyone think there’s anything wrong with doing good work?” For more than half a millennia Christians have been wrestling with a tension that many of us don’t even notice.
In today’s text, Paul states with blistering clarity that good works don’t save us AND that God has prepared good works for us to do. We hear that God wants us to do good work and feel obligated. Once obligation sets in, the joy of doing good crumbles. And once that happens, we start to feel like we should be compensated for all our hard work, compensated with something like salvation. But Paul said we don’t earn our salvation as compensation for our performance. Tension.
Here’s the thing with good works … when we do them, we start to feel good. That shouldn’t be surprising; God has prepared them for us. We would expect to feel something positive when we’re in the sweet spot of our destiny, even if it isn’t always easy. Perhaps that’s part of the reason God wants us to do them.
When we’re not trying to earn anything, we can truly enjoy the joy of work done for the sake of the good. We can focus on others. We can avoid resentment. We can share and invite others to join us.
What good work is God preparing you to do? How might you step away from an earning mentality and toward the joy God’s prepared for you?