“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Good Works – Imagine that you are sitting on the hillside with the disciples of Yeshua. You hear him say, “ma’aseykem hatovim.” Now what do you suppose He meant by “good works’? If you were in the crowd that day, you wouldn’t have any doubt in your mind. God’s Word tells you what qualifies as “good deeds.” In three broad categories, they are prayer, charity and fulfilling the commands of Torah. These are not options. They are the expectations and obligations of those who claim to follow the King. In fact, without them we are pretty useless to God.
Notice what Yeshua says about these good works. First, he comments on their purpose. They are designed to cause others to glorify the Father. There is no credit given to the ones who actually do these good works. Why? Because these good works are done in such a way that no credit can be given to the ones who perform them. In other words, ordinary men recognize that our good works don’t come from our own nobility or altruism. Ordinary men see us for what we are – selfish, self-centered and sinful. But somehow we do things that reflect the nature of God. We don’t act on the basis of commonly understood human values. We go beyond this natural frame of reference and do things that can’t be explained in human terms. Ordinary men simply shake their heads in disbelief and say, “ God must have done something in that man or woman because there is no other way to explain why they would act like that.”
Secondly, notice that we perform these good works in such a way that they point toward God. The big arrows attached to what we do never point toward us, or our churches, to our organizations or our communities. They glorify YHWH. This step should cause some serious reconsideration of even our most noble actions. It implies that there is a right way to do good works and a wrong way. It isn’t the moral character of the action itself that is at issue here. Charity is charity – or is it? It is only charity that meets the biblical standard if it points away from the one who gives and toward the great Giver. Yeshua implies that it is entirely possible to do many great and wonderful things that ultimately have no value. You and I may keep the commandments, follow the rituals, say the prayers and practice good deeds and yet entirely miss the objective. Sha’ul says virtually the same thing. “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, if I have the gift of prophecy, if I have faith that moves mountains, bestow all my goods to feed the poor, if I give my body to be burned, but I don’t have ahav [love], it doesn’t make any difference at all.” Good things done the wrong way don’t matter.
What does matter? That your heavenly Father is glorified by others. Notice the goal assumes a personal, intimate relationship. Notice the measurement of success is determined by others. Self-assessment doesn’t cut it. What is required is a relationship with the Father that is so pure that our actions are manifestations of His awe and wonder. We are the invisible carriers of His honor.
Topical Index: glory, good works, Matthew 5:16, ma’aseykem hatovim