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Got Faith? The Limits of an Outstanding Christian Work-ethic
“Therefore we conclude, that a person is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28). “
Like many of you, I believe in working hard in order to accomplish my goals. There is a difference, as one of my difficult friends pointed out, in “working hard and working smart.” I sincerely hope that I am doing both simultaneously. However, many of us would readily conclude that “hard work” (e.g., working diligently to accomplish certain results) is necessary for success. Many of us wholeheartedly agree with the common expression: “Success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Also, some of us are witnesses to the devastating consequences that may be associated with giving someone something of value (e.g., a promotion an expensive car) even though they played no part in earning it. Sometimes the recipients of unmerited gifts have little appreciation for them. I am grateful that I learned the value of a great work inside of and outside of the church. I am grateful that pastors and lay members of the church taught me and demonstrate to me the importance of the Jesus’ saying: “I must work the work of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no person can work (John 9:4).”
The scriptures teach us, however, that there are limits to an outstanding, Christian work-ethic. In Romans 4, Paul talks about leaders (Abraham and David) who were justified through their faith not through their works. A hard-working Christian might naturally assume that one can earn God’s love; however, God’s love, which is referred to as grace cannot be earned by human beings because it is freely given by God (see Ephesians 1:6, 2:8 and Romans 3:24). One might assume that when we read our bible, attend worships services and help the poor that we will be able to establish our own righteousness; however, the Apostle Paul teaches us that people are unable to establish their righteousness (see Romans 10:3, Philippians 3:9 and Romans 3:22). As Christians, our righteousness is established through our relationship with God, not through our deeds. We are justified (i.e., our righteousness is established) through our faith in God, not through our works (see Romans 3:28).
As follower of Christ, we must continue to exemplify an outstanding work-ethic by engaging in the work of kingdom-building (see Matthew 6:10). The scriptures remind us that “faith without works it dead (James 2:26).” As we work for God in our homes, churches, schools at our places of employment, we must also seek to maintain and even enhance (e.g., make stronger) our faith in God. In short, we must keep the faith, and thank God for establishing righteousness through it.