Why do good works?
Christians aren’t the only people in the world who try to be good people and do good things. So why do Christians want to do good things? Is there a difference between a Christian’s motivation and everyone else’s? I will explain the Christian motivation and hope to draw out the natural comparisons.
To understand a Christian’s answer to this question, let’s first consider a premise that serves as the foundation to the Christian worldview and all questions of life application. The premise is this: there is one Ultimate Reality that exists outside of us and independent of us. In fact, our existence is dependent on it. This Reality is creator of mankind to whom we are accountable, and for whom we exist. We were made by God and for Him. (If you don’t see how this is relevant to the question, hang tight, it should be clear soon.)
As our creator, God has the unique right and ability to give certain purposes to his creation. We Christians put a lot of emphasis on bringing glory to God, and for good reason because the Bible is full of this kind of language. This is the purpose we have as God’s creation: to glorify God. God says in Isaiah 43:6-7, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.” Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him [Christ] all things were created…all things were created through him and for him.” Okay, so we were put here for God’s glory, got it. But what does that actually mean? Long answer short, it means to display His supreme excellence in everything we think, say, and do. It means to magnify God; to make Him matter to other people. Just like the Hubble telescope helps to turn a tiny speck in the sky into the blazing supernova that it actually is. To most people, God is a tiny speck in the sky, far removed from life. But to the Christian, He is the invasive, consuming Reality to whom we must look for life.
Therefore, the Christian is motivated not by what good deeds outweigh certain “vices” to tip the scales of judgment, nor by a belief in karma with a “pay it forward” philosophy in hopes that it will come back to them, nor by a desire for praise or adulation. These common motivators are self-focused and opposed to the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only motivation for the Christian to “be a good person” is to display the goodness of the only truly 100% good person to walk the planet, Jesus Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15) Jesus was God before He was man, a title that cannot be lost, “and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:17,19-20). Because we are new creatures, Christ having taken up residence in us (Gal. 2:20) we are responsible, and now truly able, for displaying His character. So, Christians, work hard to do more good in this world. Do it without seeking reward or recognition (Mat. 6:1). And have the confidence that God put you in this world and redeemed you for purposes that include doing good works set before you for His glory (Eph. 2:10). He doesn’t want to set you up for failure. Whether it is holding the door for your Nana, giving to charity, feeding the poor, performing well at your job, curing cancer, or preaching the gospel and making disciples, work heartily unto the Lord, with the understanding that it is Christ who will deservingly get all glory, honor, and praise. Any good works, accomplishments, or titles held by those in Christ will be brought before the Lord and willingly tossed before his throne in worship (Rev. 4:10-11). He must increase, we must decrease. Christians don’t want the credit for our “goodness.” It's a truly liberating difference. I pray you can see it.