Why Our Good Works
Can Damn Us
Much of the Time Good Works can lead to great blindness
“Faith without works is dead” (James 2:14). Yes, that is true. If we have true faith, we certainly will have works. “I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” (James 2:18).
But works doesn’t prove TRUE faith.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…Many will say to me on that day [of judgement], ‘Lord, Lord…Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:21-23).
As Our Lord clearly told us, people will have enough faith to call out to Jesus to save them at judgement, who have done “mighty deeds” for God, but sadly they will still be without a faith that can save and are damned.
If we aren’t careful, our works can actually move us towards death not Life too.
We Answer the Call
Some of us will hear God calling us to serve Him, and we answer Him. Some will even answer in a big way. We will give away all of our possessions, live among the poorest of poor, carry huge crosses of Christ, pray constantly and even die for the faith to serve God and the needs of others. Just wonderful!
“Surely that is someone living like Christ and with a saving faith” some will say, “right?” Well, it could be. But to the surprise of many, even many of those who are seemingly giving up their entire lives to love God, will sadly still not be with a faith that can save…since we aren’t saved by what we do.
“Know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).
Yes, as sad as this is, even many of us who do mighty deeds, who think we have given up our lives for Christ, still don’t have a faith that can save. Tragic!
Of course, if we have true faith, like I said we will have works and many of those wonderful works, since we simply can’t truly love God and not allow God to do many works through us. But, again, works still don’t prove we have true faith.
“Well, what does prove true faith?” …I will explain. But first we need to know where we go wrong.
Where We Fail
Our good works kill us from making us grow in deadly:
- pride–thinking how good we are from our works
- idolatry–having our works be our source of happiness–not God alone
Oh, how easy it is to swell in great pride from our works. The devil will trick us into thinking that we are doing something good, so we give credit to ourselves. When we are nothing but miserable sinners who can’t do anything truly good. Only God, working through us does anything good. Sadly, we don’t know our misery and the devil uses that to deceive us.
What happens when we start doing good works is we get so caught up in the fact that God chose us to do something for Him, then we allow that honor/good work to turn into an act of pride (being happy with ourselves). But those who are humble, are never happy with ourselves, but full of contrition for our great sinfulness and rely on God to do everything for us, knowing we can’t do good. The humble are only happy with what God does through them…never themselves.
But if we are living deceived into thinking we are good–even though God did make us good, sadly sin corrupted that–but if we are deceived, we begin to think how great we are from having successful works…loving the accomplishment…the attention…the praise…growing and growing in pride and more pride. Oh, this can happen with big acts of love or even with the little things we do.
“Look at me and what I did; I gave so much of my money/things/time/my life to __________. I’m a really good person,” we think. As we look and gloat over what we have done.
Then we become so happy with ourselves, thinking of how good we are, loosing sight of our real sinfulness (if we ever had any understanding in the first place) not even striving to stop sinning (stop offending God) nor working to grow in contrition (grow in hatred for sin/love for God). But we are tricked into thinking we are righteous from our works, which just isn’t true.
Sadly, most aren’t even giving praise to God for the grace He gave us to do such mighty deeds, but all our talents are from Him. Even if we do recognize our gifts are from God, we think we can use them well, which is another lie. Oh, we might be able to do great things in the eyes of many, but in God’s eyes, from our pride, our works are only acts of self-love.
Truly, we can’t use any of the talents and gifts God gave us correctly, since we are so inclined to sin. To learn more please read, “What is the Desire to Sin.” Unless we let go of our will (every thought, word and deed) and ALLOW GOD TO DO ALL THROUGH US, all we do is shrouded in some amount of sin.
Only God, who is good, can do something truly good, because “no one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Therefore, if we don’t allow God to work through us, all we do is stained with evil.
Yes, sadly, most of us, instead of giving praise where praise is due, we give praise to ourselves and/or delight more and more in the praise from others…thinking we are doing good, when sadly, we are just using God’s gifts to offend Him. Tragic!
Ahh, our good works are destroyed by pride. Oh, we might outwardly give praise to God, but God, who reads our hearts, knows the pride that dwells within us. And that is what blinds and kills.
Pride killing us isn’t the only way the devil destroys our souls through our good works. Oh, many have made our works our idol.
When we do good works, if we aren’t careful, we can easily grow attached to our works, and not God alone.
We will love doing the good works thinking our works brings us meaning and value to our lives, and it does. But the problem is, we begin to seek to do more works, not really to love and serve God–even though we might lie to ourselves saying that is why we do what we do–but God who read the truth in our hearts know, our works are really to love ourselves–to make us happy.
For many this attachment to our work can become very great and instead of having God on their hearts and minds, they have their works fill them up. This love of our works can become so bad, if someone doesn’t show gratitude or like what we have done, we are upset. Since God isn’t our source of joy…others are. Who are we really living for? It sin’t God; it is the satsification from our works and the praise from others.
So now, instead of God being our source of happiness…our works are. Our works have just replaced God and become our idol.
We Are Nothing
The problem is, the devil has confused us, and we don’t know who we are–we are nothing.
When we suffer from much pride, we simply don’t understand our misery. We have been taught that is an insult and wrong to state how we are absolutely nothing. Some people spend their entire lives looking for ways to boost up their self esteem–through their pride. Oh, we don’t know what we are doing.
“Don’t put yourself down”…someone, who doesn’t know any better, will say. And for most people stating our nothingness isn’t an act of true humility but that of self-pity, as we wish to be who we aren’t, which is all part of our deadly pride. To learn more please read, “How Does Our Pride Kill Us.”
But for those who have grown correctly in our faith, OUR NOTHINGNESS IS PROFOUND.
We know we are nothing but sin and need Our Savior to soften our hard hearts so we can allow God to work through us if we are to do anything truly good. We don’t want to be anything and are content with the gifts and talents God has given to us; we only want to love God and work as hard as we can to let go of our will so we no longer offend God and allow Him to do whatever He wishes through us.
But since we live in a time of great darkness our nothingness isn’t understood and we run to people, power and pleasure looking for happiness instead of living for God alone.
For the few who have grown correctly in faith from accepting much of God’s grace, God grace has now made them holy and righteous as God intends to occur from His callings…But even for those, who have gained a saving faith, sanctity or even perfection, we know we aren’t “good” or even “holy.” So when The Word says we need to be holy and righteous in His sight….we must understand we can’t be holy or righteous…just God living in us.
The only reason anyone would think we were good is because we don’t understand the sinfulness of man or the infinite injury one slight sin causes to Perfect Goodness.
Why would we think we are good, when are full of sin? We need mercy.
Oh, that is from our pride. This prideful confusion develops when we don’t have HUMILITY or a HORROR FOR SIN. We just have lots of good works and focus on them and not contrition for our sins.
If we had an understanding of our nothingness, we would have a holy hatred for ourselves (our sinfulness) and know just how horribly sinful we really are and truly understand our great need for mercy.
“Every perfection and every virtue proceeds from charity [love], and charity is nourished by humility, which results from [self] knowledge and holy hatred of self.“
–God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena
But we don’t.
Once we start priding ourselves on anything, whether it is our knowledge of the faith, success, acts of faith or our works, and alike, we reject the Light for darkness. We don’t credit God for giving us knowledge, faith, success, works…we think we are “holy.”
Therefore, if we or someone else looks at us or someone else, who has great knowledge, bountiful acts of faith, fantastic works, even who performs miracles and declares them or ourselves to be a saint because of those things, we are living quite deceived, since, as God says, none of those mighty deeds proves a saving faith, because we can be damned and still perform those “mighty deeds”(Matthew 7:21-23).
Oh, we might be chosen by God to do mighty deeds, but that simply does’t prove faith. Of course, to be a saint, like I said, we will have some of those attributes, but again, those don’t prove TRUE love of God, since true love goes beyond our actions.
Sure we can have some love of God when we do those things, but some love of God doesn’t accept God’s saving mercy. We must “mature”(Ephesians 4:13) in our faith to obtain true love and when we have true love for God, we have what saves and that is TRUE CONTRITION for our sins.
Therefore, if we allow our acts of love to trick us into thinking we have TRUE love, then we won’t seek Our Savior to save us (to remove our desire for sin by giving us true sorrow for them) , and we will die from a heart full of pride.
When we begin doing great acts of love some will be quite successful. Then from loving the success and finding our happiness with our work and not God alone…we grow more blind over time. Our Lord isn’t who is our source of joy, sadly our works are. Then instead of our heart longing for God and His will, we long for happiness with our works. Our works become our idol.
If we become successful from our work, we begin to think we are pleasing God and doing good, but most sadly, from our hidden great pride and idolatry, we are actually an abomination of love, since our works are being driven by a heart that still loves sin (pride/self-love). Tragic!
Oh, we might be doing what God has asked of us and using the gifts He has given us, but if we don’t convert through those works, and completely loose our love of sin, we will die.
Let’s look at the prophet Jonah. God spoke to Jonah and told him to go and tell the Ninevites that they needed to repent and change or they would be doomed. Now, was Jonah some holy man whom God called him to do such a great deed? Not at all. If he were, he would have immediately obeyed God, but he didn’t. Even if Jonah did obey right away, that still doesn’t prove he is holy (obedient servant of God-holy has two meanings). All that proves is God chose Jonah to do that specific work and he did it…it diffidently doesn’t prove his righteous by any means.
We clearly see Jonah’s lack of faith from his pride when he refused to obey God. Then God had to punish him greatly for him to relent his will for God’s. That is not proof of a righteousness man but proof his was greatly lacking grace—lacking much faith. Thankfully, Jonah finally surrendered his pride and obeyed or he would have been responsible for the deaths of the Ninevites.
Oh, how many of us pray and hear God speak to us or hear God’s call in our hearts to do something for Him but instead of humbly seeing ourselves as a great sinner, whom God called to do His mighty deeds, we are deceived into seeing ourselves as some “holy” chosen person, when we are still far from it. Even if we do answer God’s call right away and are doing some good deeds, that still proves nothing…as the damned do those “mighty deeds” too. Oh, our pride has blinded us.
Do we think after Jonah relented his will for God’s, he was instantly holy and righteous in God’s sight, for doing that one act of obedience? Do we think by that one act of obedience he humbled himself so greatly that he embraced so much of God’s grace, he was now a new man? It is possible, but I don’t think so. Jonah was a man just like you and me and even had a hard time obeying. Just because we obey God in one act that doesn’t mean we are now transformed so perfectly, that we are now a new man in Christ.
Jonah, like the rest of us, most likely had to struggle and struggle to surrender his will in the rest of his life to conform it to God’s. After that first act of obedience, Jonah surely received grace but still probably had to work hard to remove sin after sin even while he was proclaiming God’s words to the Ninivites. Then after time and from receiving more and more of God’s grace he hopefully one day grew to be the servant God had called him to be.
Conversion to true righteousness—to having a truly contrite heart for ALL our sins/true love of God/true surrender of our will—takes time, since we tend to refuse so much of God’s help (grace). If we aren’t careful, our good works and callings from God can deceive us greatly into living a life of great deadly pride.
How Are We Saved?
From our pride driving our thoughts, words and deeds, many have lost sight of how we are really saved. That our works are made pleasing to God when we have CONTRITION in our heart FOR OUR SINS…not some contrition but TRUE contrition…not for some of our sins but true sorrow for ALL of our sins. That is a heart that truly loves God.
“Thy death will not save me, if I do not on my part [to] detest every evil [sin] and have true sorrow for the sins I have committed against Thee.”
–St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church
But please don’t be deceived and think we surely have this kind of contrition–this kind of saving faith–when the saints “begs tears of true repentance and the infusion of divine love” as they toiled throughout their life to obtain enough grace to grow into such a faith…to truly hate all their sins, when we have done little if anything to seek such sorrow.
When we are blind to The Way, we suffer from presumption and feel we are saved by our great sacrifices for God and since we don’t think we commit “mortal sin.” Oh, we don’t really understand what true sorrow/true faith is.
“If you ask me what [true] repentance is, I tell you that it is an anguish of the soul, and a detestation for past sin, and a firm resolve never to sin again…No my friends, you must not rely on tears alone. They are often deceiving, and many persons weep in the confessional and fall back into the same sin at the first opportunity…Christians who has sinned and wishes to obtain pardon, must be so minded that he would rather suffer the most cruel tortures than fall back into the sin which he has just confessed. “
–St. John Vianney
Unless our sorrow for our sins grows from some sorrow into true sorrow–would rather suffer cruel tortures–for even our venial sins, rather than sin, we and our great works, will reject mercy for sin.
Sadly, when we are so focused on our works, we put little or any effort into actually doing something to amend our sins. We see no harm in venialy offending God. We don’t have a horror sin or for offending God. No, we think we are good enough because we don’t see ourselves committing great sin, and since we are doing so many works. We actually have little love for God, and lost sight of The Way.
Oh, we attend confession, but we just go right back and recommit our sins all over again, since we don’t have a horror for them nor have we sought God’s transforming mercy and worked hard to take away our liking for them, from our little, if any actual sorrow for offending God. Tragic!
Are We Saving Souls?
Since we are suffering from much pride and living in darkness, many think our good works are also saving others souls. But again, how are we saved?
We are saved: if we can accept God's grace to grow from some faith in Jesus into a true saving faith that has true contrition for every sin we have ever committed even the least of them...a sorrow so great we would rather suffer even death that offend God whom we should be loving in the slightest way.
That is a faith that can save and boy does it take great grace to obtain a true faith in Jesus.
From being deceived, we begin thinking we are saving souls by feeding the poor, saving the babies, consoling the elderly, teaching the children, and doing other works for God, but are we?
Is someone saved by us doing an act of love for them? No, we aren’t saved by the love someone else has for us? No. We are saved if we grow to having TRUE sorrow for all of our sins (true love for God), which accepts God’s saving forgiving mercy.
We can be loved by everyone in the world, but if we lack sorrow for even a single sin, we reject God’s mercy for having a love/lack of contrition for offending God Almighty.
If we don’t know The Way, we can feed the poor every day, show them Jesus’s love for them, and think we are saving them. But like I said, someone isn’t saved if we feed them or even if they see God’s love for them through us. They must convert.
If we feed someone but we don’t also bring them to know Jesus and His desire to send them great grace so they can truly come to hate their horrid offences they have committed against Him; and if we don’t give them a real desire to let go of all that they love that isn’t God and His will, so they can obtain a saving faith that can accept His forgiveness of their sin….Are we really doing anything good for them?
We can visit the sick and feed the world, but they die and still go to hell, how does anything we do really help them? They will be in eternal torment forever. Our works didn’t lead them to Life.
Everyone needs TRUE CONTRITION for our sins to accept God’s forgiving saving mercy…since we are all sinners, the and rich and the poor alike.
Poor in Spirit
Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they are blessed in Heaven.
When God says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours” (Luke 6:20). God isn’t speaking about us being poor: lacking money, since God doesn’t show favor to the weak, but He does hear those who are poor in pride (lacking pride) by being “poor in spirit [poor in pride]” (Matthew 5:3).
Of course, when we are weak (oppressed: lacking money, or power, or help, etc.), we tend to be more humble because of our weakness…and it is from our lack of pride that we can accept God’s saving mercy. This is because when we have little pride, from our weakness, God is made strong and we accept His grace and can grow into having great contrition for our sins, since it is our pride that prevents us from truly seeking and accepting His mercy to save us.
“The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. Though not unduly partial toward the weak [poor], yet he hears the cry of the oppressed [for they are humble].” (Sirach 35:13)
Sometimes when we are caring for another’s earthly needs, we can’t always preach with our words; sometimes God doesn’t want us preach with our words. But if we aren’t at least praying and sacrificing for the conversion of their hearts to desire to repent and change so to live a life that truly loves God, as we serve them, what good are we really doing?
Has the devil confused us?
Please know, Jesus didn't just feed the hungry and that was it. No, like the true saints do, after they take care of God's children's immediate needs, when the needy's hearts are full of humble gratitude, those ministering to them proclaim the true words of Everlasting Life so the oppressed can hear God calling them to repent and change, so to embrace God's love and have a life and eternity of joy.
Different Kinds of Love
There are different kinds of love we perform for God:
- Acts of faith (prayers)
- Knowledge of the faith (learning)
- Perform miracles/healings (belief/trust in God)
- Self-sacrifice (suffering-charity)
- True Love
We can perform any or all of the first four kinds of love, but if we don’t have true love, we have nothing. This is because none of our acts of love, if we lack true love, will be done to truly please God nor will they merit us anything towards Eternal Life (give us rewards after we die)…since they were still done from a heart that loves sin.
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues [pray] but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge [of the faith]; if I have all faith so as to move mountains [trust] but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast [in the cross] but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Yes, true love of God is when a person has a true hatred for sin…all sin…since we can’t love God–truly love God–and be complacent with offending Him…even with the slightest sin.
"Let love be sincere; hate what is evil" (Romans 12:9).
Tragically, as we know, our love for sin is great, since we habitually commit so many sins because we lack hatred for the sin so greatly, we haven’t sought God’s transforming grace to remove our repeated desire for many sins. Therefore, our love must grow from some love into a true saving love (saving faith). To learn more please read the home page article, “Why So Few Christians Are Saved” as St. Augustine warns us.
However, our acts of love, if done outside of having true love, from God’s mercy, can send us and others grace to help move us towards obtaining a saving faith. But if a saving faith/true love isn’t acquired before death (judgement), no reward will come from God for anything we have done in our entire lives, since nothing truly good was done. Everything was still done from our corrupted hearts that love sin. We will have nothing to show Our Lord for our entire life. We will only receive our due punishment.
However, during our time on earth, before judgement, God loves us so much, that He rewards us for the slightest good we do, even if it is far from perfect, to motivate us towards Life.
So not only will our good works keep us away from sin, they can give us the strength we need to grow in our faith so to not reject saving grace, but that is only possible if we can accept the grace God wants to give us, but tragically, most reject God’s grace from our HORRIBLE PRIDE.
Therefore, lose our pride, gain a truly humble heart and grow in faith and works, so to gain the grace needed to come to truly hate all of our sins and not habitually commit them. Then from accepting God’s grace, we can live the virtues of love (qualities of Christ), so we can truly love God, our neighbor and not any of our sins or the world. Then our faith, hope and love will be true.
“[Virtues of love] Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Give Our Life To God – Correctly
When we hear God calling us to do His will, whatever it may be: to become a religious, feed the hungry, care for the dying, teach children, heal the sick, run a prayer group, etc., we become excited. Perhaps we don’t really know what God’s calling means, but we go for it and do what we believe He wills, which is great!
Maybe God called us to do great visible acts of love or perhaps He wills for us to love Him in little things that are invisible to others, but regardless of what God wills, if we hear God calling us and desire to do His will, we will obey.
However, this is where we must be careful. With any intention to do good, the devil can sneak into our thoughts and see to it we merit no grace on earth or for eternity from our act of love, through our pride.
You see, the evil one has deceived most into thinking, obeying God and giving our will to Him is strictly done by serving Him…so if we do the physical acts we think God is calling us to do, we are deceived into believing we are righteous (saved) and doing God’s will.
But that just isn’t true, since we aren’t saved by our works. Well, it is true that those, who do surrender to God’s will correctly serve Him, and do the physical tasks God asks of us, but there is so much more to living for God’s will alone and obtaining a saving faith than doing mere works. To learn more please read, “What is God’s Will.”
When we think serving God is everything, then we make our works our everything. As a result, we lose sight of what is actually God’s will and what actually saves.
Then, we wind up spend all of our time trying to do greater and greater works, as we pray to God for success, using whatever skills God has given us to gain the success, which we think proves our faith.
But what we have actually done, is we have rejected God–the rest of His Law–in pursuit works…and more works, being deceived into believing that is The Way. From here many become blindly addicted to the success, attention, complements, and power. Then we die from blinding pride.
OK, so hopefully we know clearly how we can go wrong. So, now, we need to learn how can we serve God correctly? Well, that all has to do with balance. God has a plan for literally every second of our life. If we can do exactly what He wills at every instant, we are truly living for God’s will.
This perfect plan of God’s, His will, is given to us so if we follow it, we will grow in self-knowledge, works, prayers, sacrifices, virtues, and contrition, etc….and into a saving faith and then into becoming perfect self-sacrificing saint. Then instead of rejecting saving mercy for sin, we will truly love God and be given the perfect place He has prepared for us in Heaven.
To learn about what this will God has for us, please read, “What is God’s Will.”
God Doesn’t Leave Us to Die
Even if we are stuck loving our works and not God, God doesn’t abandon us. He sends us warning and clear signs something is wrong, so we can examine our conscience with a humble heart and turn to Him for help. However many of us ignore God’s warnings and never turn to Him for assistance.
But tragically, most don’t seek the cure and die. We don’t want to do that. Let’s learn what are the signs of spiritual sickness.
The warnings something is wrong:
Some people will suffer from one of these symptoms and some from many of them combined, but if we are ailed with just one of these conditions, we need to look to see what is causing this problem and seek God to cure us. It most likely is a sign something has gone very wrong.
Now, the firs