How do Catholics know if they’ve done enough Good Works?
Yes, that’s the question that came back from my last post… How do Catholics know if they’ve done enough Good Works? Do you get the feeling this fundamentalist didn’t really read what I posted? I really don’t want to go the route of debating, but I am going to answer this question in terms of Catholic belief vs. Fundamentalist belief.
Catholic Stance: It’s not a certain number of works; it’s doing as Jesus instructed us during the Sermon on the Mount, as He specified in the Beatitudes and Parables. It is doing whatever works we are called to do because that goes hand in hand with faith. One isn’t separate from the other. (Have I said that enough times?) If you have faith, you are called to do works. For Good Works, everyone’s calling is different. I felt a calling to post Catholic truths, to teach at Youth Group, to write Catholic novels. I do not have the courage or fortitude to travel to some poverty-stricken third-world country to educate children. But some people do. God has laid different talents for each of us.
Let me say again: Grace is a free gift from God, and we choose to accept that grace and salvation through faith, or reject God and turn away. If we choose the path of faith, we still have Freewill, which means we may fall off the wagon, get led off the path, or sit down in depression and refuse to look up. If we do that, we will be judged accordingly. If, however, we live our lives the way Jesus instructed, we will find our reward in heaven. Are we truly children of God who answer his calling and do things out of love and charity because Jesus has changed us into people who understand his message of Love? Or have we turned away from God and allowed sin and greed to take His place? Faith must be reflected in the essence of who we are and how we live our lives.
Let’s look to the Bible to see what it says. There are lots of verses stating faith leads to salvation, but they are followed with many passages about what you must do with that faith. There is only ONE place that says “By Faith Alone,” which I posted the other day: James 2:24 “You must see that a person is justified (saved) by his works and NOT BY FAITH ALONE.
How about that—the only place the Bible says “faith alone” is to say it’s NOT faith alone.
Don’t you wish you could just send a text message up to Jesus and ask Him straight out: Tell me, Jesus, is it just faith alone? What must I do to get to heaven? Well, lucky for you, someone asked him that!
(Luke 10:25) A lawyer asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” And Jesus answers, “Nothing. Just say you believe”—NOT!!!! Right then, if the ONLY thing required was a statement of faith, isn’t that what Jesus would have answered? Wouldn’t he??? But that is NOT what Jesus said. Instead he said, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The lawyer replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you shall live.” The lawyer then asks Jesus to define who his neighbor is, and Jesus explains through the Parable of the Good Samaritan that “his neighbor” is all of humanity. So, right there from the Lord’s mouth is not a profession of “Just say you believe,” but rather, “Love one another; take care of one another; do charitable works… You must LIVE your life for the Lord and give him your ALL, not just say a believer’s prayer. (And as a side note, saying a believer’s prayer would actually be a WORK, wouldn’t it? Or maybe it’s a Tradition—But that would be against solo scriptura.)
Faith is a way of living. Jesus further exemplifies this with the Sermon on the Mount, first with the Beatitudes, which are all about how we must live our lives, and then saying He did not come to abolish the laws but to fulfill them, and then to say that our holiness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees or we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mat 5). Wow—he didn’t sit in front of that huge crowd and say, “Look folks, all it takes is saying you believe in me and it’s a done deal; you’ve got a Free Pass in to heaven!”
Now let’s look at a few more verses. In parentheses I have my thoughts as if I were considering becoming a Fundamentalist.
Later, Jesus adds to that saying (Mat 16:24) “If a man wishes to come to me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in in my footsteps. (Hmm… Deny himself? Deny himself of what? And take up a cross? A cross means pain and suffering. I thought all I had to do was say ‘I believe!’ Silly Jesus, he couldn’t have meant that.) Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (“Lose my life for his sake? But what about just saying I believe and then doing what I want? Sin doesn’t matter; why would I have to lose my life?”) What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process (“Get rich and have it all, but lose his soul… how would that be possible if it doesn’t matter what a person does? Can’t you be ruler of the world, rich and greedy, but be okay as long as you BELIEVE?”) What can a man offer in exchange for his very self? The Son of Man will come with his Father’s glory accompanied by his angels. When he does, he will repay each man according to his conduct. (WHAT? You said I only had to say that Believer’s prayer! Nothing else matters! No Good Works! And my sins are supposed to be hidden from God’s eyes now, right? So what CONDUCT is He talking about?)
And of course there is the one spot where faith is rated. 1Cor 13:13 “There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love (charity), and the greatest of these is love.”
WHAT? Love/Charity is more important than FAITH? Yup, that’s what it says. Faith is just the beginning. It’s what gets you into the Christian Club, but every club has rules, and if you don’t obey the rules, you’re gunna get kicked out by the Big Guy upstairs.
If it was just Faith Alone, the Bible would be ONE Sentence, not books and books about how to live our lives. It would say, “Say you believe, and voila, you’re in the door.”
I think in their hearts, most fundamentalists really know that it’s not just Faith Alone; it’s just a good way to make the whole faith thing sound so simple and appealing that they keep professing it even though almost any of them will then admit that if a person isn’t living their life for God, they probably aren’t really saved. There is LESS assurance in that, in my opinion, than in the Catholic stance, and here’s why: because WORKS has two sides: Good Works and Sin, with Good works being offered up as a constant demonstration of Love, while the opposite, which is Sin, must be abolished, or at the very least repented not just once, but daily.
That is where we really part ways with most Fundamentalists. They think there is no consequence for sin. We know from every book in the Bible that there are consequences for sin. In fact there is more discussion about SIN in the Bible than anything else. If sin/conduct doesn’t matter after that initial repenting, why is there so much about it in the Bible?
Accepting faith is only stepping in the door. It’s like being a student. If you rarely show up for class, don’t do the assignments, and constantly break the rules, what are the chances that you’re going to graduate? Calling yourself a student doesn’t mean you’ll get the diploma. Faith and Works go hand in hand. And works includes staying out of detention and not getting suspended… in other words, avoidance of sin.
And that’s what I’ll talk about next post.