Saturday, January 23, 2016
True Acts of Mercy
Is not this, instead, the kind of fast that I have chosen? Release the constraints of impiety; relieve the burdens that oppress; freely forgive those who are broken; and break apart every burden. Break your bread with the hungry, and lead the destitute and the homeless into your house. When you see someone naked, cover him, and do not despise your own flesh. Then your light will break forth like the morning, and your health will improve quickly, and your justice will go before your face, and the glory of the Lord will gather you up.Isaiah 58:6-8
Isaiah rebukes Israel for a mistaken idea of fasting. The people thought the outward appearance of fasting was enough. Instead, he said true fasting is to do acts of mercy to others not for its sake but so that our light will shine forth, our health to improve and our justice to go before us and the glory of the Lord will gather us up. The purpose of good works is not the act itself, but to reflect God's light, justice and glory in what we do.
This is not limited to the act itself. People may feed the hungry, yet can cause scandal against God's name if they continue to do unjust deeds or if their work is only for their selfish purpose. The acts of mercy are to be done for the sole purpose of glorifying God.
One of the tendencies today is people think that these acts are the end all of a good life, that I can do whatever I want since I am do a lot of good works. St Paul clearly tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:3 “And if I distribute all my goods in order to feed the poor, and if I hand over my body to be burned, yet not have charity, it offers me nothing.”
None of these works St Paul mentioned are evil, yet he said these are nothing without charity. The problem with relying on good works for our salvation is it becomes an idol and it becomes a source of pride.
Good works in itself cannot save us. If these can, we do not need a Savior. We are saved by God's grace and mercy through the faith of Jesus Christ which drives us to do good works. Everything is gift and if we think we can work our way to salvation, we are badly mistaken.
Faith in Jesus alone is not enough. These must bear fruit in good works. Jesus tells us we must bear fruit that will last. If our faith does not bear fruit, then our faith is worthless. Faith in Jesus Christ manifests itself in the desire to glorify God in what we do, therefore, it must bear fruit in good works.
One last thing to note is this parable of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and perform many powerful deeds in your name?' And then will I disclose to them, 'I have never known you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity.'
Which of the work mentioned were evil? Obviously, these people followed Jesus and were able to do great things for Jesus, yet, Jesus said he did not know them. Why? Verse 21 gives the answer, Not all who say to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does the will of my Father, who is in heaven.
Good works mean something only when we live in obedience to the Father.
Lord, help me to live in obedience to you so I may truly give glory to your name. Save me Lord because I trust in you.