What Is the Bible’s View?
Is Doing “Good Works” Enough?
MANY people today are in poverty. Others are suffering from disease or are weakened by the effects of old age. To help these people, there are persons who contribute money for the advancement of research in the fight against disease and for the support of hospitals and care centers for orphans and the aged. Others even volunteer their time to work for such causes. Perhaps you or some of your friends or relatives do. Doubtless you know others who gain personal satisfaction from such work.
Efforts to relieve suffering or to help the unfortunate might well be called “good works.” The Bible, in fact, commends caring for orphans and widows. We read: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas. 1:27) But the performance of some “good works” does not in itself prove that a person has divine approval. God does not judge by the outward appearance of things. “Not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Sam. 16:7.
So how do you think God would view someone who gave of his time and funds, basically to make a name for himself, to impress others? What about a person contributing to charity just to reduce his tax bill? And what about persons who volunteer to help others, primarily to salve their guilty conscience? Could God approve of their “good works”?
The Bible emphasizes that Jehovah God does not approve a person just because he does some “good works.” One’s whole life course must give evidence of devotion to righteousness.
A person may start off well in doing God’s will, but this will not spare him from adverse judgment if he does not continue in that course. “My righteous one will live by reason of faith,” says Jehovah, and, “if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”—Heb. 10:38.
This rule of action is illustrated in the case of Jehu, a man anointed at divine direction to be king of the northern kingdom of ancient Israel.
At the time of his anointing, Jehu was told: “This is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said, ‘I do anoint you as king over Jehovah’s people, that is, over Israel. And you must strike down the house of Ahab your lord, and I must avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the servants of Jehovah at the hand of Jezebel. And the whole house of Ahab must perish.’”—2 Ki. 9:6-8.
The house of Ahab was bloodguilty before Jehovah. It deserved to perish at the hands of divinely constituted authority. This was in harmony with God’s law to Israel: “For the land there may be no atonement respecting the blood that has been spilled upon it except by the blood of the one spilling it.”—Num. 35:33.
Without delay Jehu followed through on his commission. For doing so he was rewarded, Jehovah saying to him: “For the reason that you have acted well in doing what is right in my eyes, and according to all that was in my heart you have done to the house of Ahab, sons themselves to the fourth generation will sit for you upon the throne of Israel.”—2 Ki. 10:30.
After Jehu’s day, however, Jehovah made a startling pronouncement of judgment through the prophet Hosea: “I must hold an accounting for the acts of bloodshed of Jezreel [the royal residence of the house of Ahab] against the house of Jehu, and I must cause the royal rule of the house of Israel to cease.” (Hos. 1:4) This bloodguilt on Jehu’s house could not have been for carrying out the commission to annihilate the house of Ahab. Jehu was both commended and repaid for this. Neither could the bloodguilt be attributed to Jehu’s killing Ahaziah of Judah and his brothers. Being related to Ahab through the marriage of his wicked daughter Athaliah to Jehoram, the royal line of Judah did not then have an approved standing before Jehovah. But what did make the house of Jehu bloodguilty?
It should be remembered that Jehu became involved in serious sin. Second Kings 10:31 reports: “Jehu himself did not take care to walk in the law of Jehovah the God of Israel with all his heart. He did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam with which he caused Israel to sin.” Like the other kings of the ten-tribe kingdom, Jehu did not eradicate the calf worship that had been instituted by King Jeroboam. This dereliction in duty was doubtless due to wanting to keep the ten-tribe kingdom distinct from the kingdom of Judah, with its temple at Jerusalem.
Jehu apparently came to believe that independence from Judah could be maintained only by continuing to have a distinct state religion, calf worship. And he sought to keep his position at all costs, even if that meant perpetuating idolatry. This was really an evidence of lack of faith in Jehovah, who had enabled Jehu to attain to kingship in Israel. So it may well be that, apart from the just execution of Jehovah’s judgment against the house of Ahab, the motivations that prompted Jehu’s allowing calf worship to continue also caused him to shed blood.
In due time Jehovah held an accounting for these acts of bloodshed. The house of Jehu came to a violent end with the reign of Jehu’s great-great-grandson Zechariah. After ruling for six months, he was murdered, and the assassin Shallum seized the throne. (2 Ki. 15:8-10) Jehu’s past record of “good works” was not enough to spare his house from having to render an account for acts of bloodshed.
Accordingly, the doing of some works that are in harmony with God’s will is not enough. While God may repay one for certain services rendered, final divine approval and blessing come to those who continue to serve him wholeheartedly.
Jehovah God has always dealt with individuals according to unchangeable righteous principles. Not outward acts in themselves; but a record of faithfulness prompted by good motives has great value in the eyes of God. As the apostle Paul expressed it under inspiration: “If I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.” (1 Cor. 13:2, 3) Similarly, Jesus Christ counseled: “Take good care not to practice your righteousness in front of men in order to be observed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 6:1) So, may we be found doing good works out of love at the time Jehovah God examines the record we have made for ourselves.2