Many of us have taken missionary trips to various parts of the world–particularly so-called third world areas where cleanliness and hygiene are major problems in the spreading of disease and sickness. People live and eat from what we would call dumps or landfills. We are typically appalled and do what we can to help to improve the natives situation while we are there. We may even send money and needed items throughout the year. Make no mistake, this is a good thing.
However, we could take all of those times we went on those trips, add in all our tithes and offerings, consider the ministries in which we’ve been active, count all our visitations to shut-ins and prisons, include our church attendance and all our time of prayer and, compared to God’s righteousness, all our efforts would be no better than a pile of stinking rags. We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64:6)
This doesn’t mean that what we do as Christian work is unimportant. It’s just that, in God’s big picture, it doesn’t amount to much. His glory and righteousness so far supersedes our own that the comparison makes our efforts look far less than glorious. Sometimes we get it into our heads that what we do is getting checked off on some big list of good things, when instead what we should realize is that we are simply doing what we are supposed to as children of God. And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’ (Luke 17:9-10).
Do the good works count? Of course they do. But they should come as a natural expression of God’s glory working through you rather than what some perceive as an expression of man’s innate goodness. And the more of Him that shines through and the less of you that comes forth, the better for His Kingdom–both now and for eternity.
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. (Matthew 16:27)
” I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)
Not bad for a pile of smelly rags. But only because Jesus’ righteousness turns them to purest white and makes them heaven scented.