The Good Reason for Good Works

by Karen Ehman February 9, 2021
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
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Lately I’ve had fun observing a chain of kind deeds on our little town’s Facebook page.

It all started when someone hopped on the page to post a thank-you to the person who paid for her coffee that morning at the local fast-food drive-thru. She said she decided to continue the chain of thoughtfulness by paying for the person’s meal behind her. Many residents hopped on to say how considerate these actions were and that they too were challenged to do something similar.

The simple gesture of a gifted latte sparked a flurry of good deeds. In the weeks following, people took to the comments thread to thank those who’d helped them in various ways.

An elderly woman expressed her gratitude for having her heavy groceries carried to her car on a rainy afternoon.

A young mom thanked a stranger for helping her fold her stroller at the park when she had her hands full with a crying baby and a wriggling toddler.

Still another man expressed his astonishment when he discovered his breakfast had been paid for at our local diner by a complete stranger.

When I think about doing good works such as these, I have to stop and wonder — what is the point in all of it? Our key verse today states, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

This verse doesn’t assert that we should strive to bless others with good works so we will be well thought of. It doesn’t even imply that we do kind deeds so that others will be cheered up. And it certainly doesn’t urge us to do our fair share of good in order to earn our way to heaven.

Many belief systems are based on a “good works” mentality — if we do enough kind deeds, God will let us into heaven. Christianity is just the opposite. It says we will never be good enough. In fact, we deserve to spend eternity separated from God forever. However, Jesus — who is God’s perfect Son — laid down His life for us, taking our punishment instead. By doing this, He purchased our way to heaven. (John 14:6; Romans 6:23)

No, we are not saved by our good works. But we are saved in order to do good works, works that God planned long ago for us to have on our to-do lists each day.

In the original Greek, the word good in Ephesians 2:10 is agathos. It means “intrinsically kind;” true goodness that originates from God and is empowered by Him. We don’t perform these works in our own strength. We do them through the Lord’s strength instead.

And, as a beautiful bonus, our kindness to others, which flows from God Himself, can be a conduit to show them God’s kindness, which may in turn spark a desire in them to follow Him too. Elsewhere in Scripture, we discover that God’s kindness is intended to lead humans to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

This term for kindness is an adjective in the Greek — chréstos. It is a combination of two concepts — kind and useful. There isn’t an English word that, when used by itself, conveys the dual meaning here. Chréstos means both earthly thoughtful and eternally useful. It serves a purpose. This divine benevolence is beneficial because it leads others to repentance.

It is God’s kindness — not His condemnation — that wins others to Himself. And our kindness when doing good deeds can help to win others over as well.

Today, let’s be open to how God can prompt our kindness and do some of the good works He has already prepared for us to do. Just remember that good works aren’t our ticket to heaven … they are our marching orders here on earth.

Father, may my kindness to others originate from You and be empowered by Your Holy Spirit. Help my behavior to display the gospel, pointing others to eternal salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, …” (ESV)


If you need some creative ways to scatter kindness — or to give a thoughtful and unique gift — Karen’s new book, Make Their Day: 101 Simple, Powerful Ways to Love Others Well, is packed with doable and affordable ideas your friends and family will love.


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Was there ever a time when someone else’s good deed pointed you to Jesus? What did they do?

We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2021 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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