Ayn Rand once wrote: “You can evade reality, but you cannot evade the consequences of evading reality” (Boys, 64). Mankind, as a whole, has evaded reality for millennia. Human beings fail to realize that the ultimate reality is God. They fail to realize that human life is real and that men have been imbued with a conscience (Rom. 2:14-15). What men do and do not do in life is real. Most of all, they fail to realize that inevitably the day will come when they must answer for what they have done (v. 16). The Bible tells us: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
In spite of the fact that cigarette smoking is injurious to the health, often leading to lung cancer and other life threatening ailments, smokers generally deny the harmful reality. Conversations with cigarette smokers often go as follows: “Well, I can quit smoking anytime I desire. In any case, I will quit before anything serious develops. After all, such an event is a long way off.” The man or woman lying in a hospital bed, gasping endlessly for hours, struggling for his or her last breath because of lung cancer, find that a “long way off” is not as far off as previously thought. Many view the Judgment Day in the same manner. They evade the reality of the righteous judgment of God that is sure to come, or even the fact that judgment is based on good or bad works.
That leads to the following question: Who determines good and bad works? The answer: God does. After all, did He not create man and give him an instruction book-His inspired Word, the Bible? Man is a free moral agent. God did not create him to be a robot. Neither did God give him the prerogative to determine right and wrong. God has already done that. Free moral agency gives man the right to decide to follow God’s Way or to reject it. Sin is defined in the Bible as the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Paul instructed Timothy: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1 Tim. 5:24). The Moffatt Translation makes the meaning more clear. “Some people’s sins are notorious and call for judgment, but in some cases sin only comes out afterwards.” Professor Moffatt states in verse 25: “Good works are equally conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot escape notice forever.” In brief, what men need to realize is that God will bring every work into judgment.
The Bible says much about good works. The primary goal for thousands of people is to become rich, yet Paul wrote: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Much earlier, Jesus warned: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). The Bible reveals that when it comes to good works, one’s standard of living is not important. What is important is the desire to serve God and to be of a benefit to our fellow man.
However, there is a decided tendency on the part of some to publicly display their good works. They do this in order to receive the praise and approbation of men. Jesus warned against this.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (Matt. 6:1-4)
While it may not be realized, good works that are approved of God demonstrate faith. There are many kinds of good works. But numerous deeds performed by men are not based on pure motives; they often result from guilt and penance. These are not the kind of works approved by God. Another example of good works is doing good for others. An illustration is found in Titus 3:14. The King James Version states: “And let ours [Christians] also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” The New King James Version says: “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” Today’s English Version renders it: “Our people must learn to spend their time doing good, in order to provide for real needs; they should not live useless lives.” These texts give us an understanding of good works. They are based on the urgent needs of others, needs that are authentic; they are works that will truly help solve the problem of those being helped. Many philanthropic works done today are based on the tax benefit derived for the one who authorizes the bestowal, or from a desire to undo the harm done in obtaining wealth in the first place. We read in Titus 3:8: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” In reality, applying Christian principles in the matter of good works is a reflection of one’s faith in God. For why would one serve and help others if he or she did not believe God instructs Christians to do so?
Here is what Jesus said:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:31-40)
In the above example, those helping others were not looking for a reward in return. For those in need had nothing with which to reciprocate. Yet, this has been the motive of many. Jesus instructed His disciples not to follow the example of the Pharisees.
. . . When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14)
The Apostle James gave this instruction:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (Jas. 2:14-20)
True love is outgoing concern for others. Human nature, being what it is, does not normally have the desire to help and give unequivocally. Certainly there are individuals who have a desire to help and serve others and constantly do so, but this appears to be the exception. Because they standout so much, these people are noticed. To have the attitude Jesus described, human nature must be changed. But it cannot be changed by itself. This comes about by means of conversion.
First comes repentance, followed by receipt of the Holy Spirit that enables men to live according to God’s Way of life. The Apostle Paul describes it as follows:
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Tim. 2:19-21)
In brief, human nature must be purged of its evil inclinations. Jesus described those who refuse to do God’s will as workers of iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23). He listed some of the evil tendencies of men: ” . . . He said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders” (Mark 7:20-21). These evil deeds must be purged from the heart of man and replaced by good works. In one form of another, all are violations against God’s Law. As seen from Paul’s statement above, one who purges iniquity from his life can practice good works. All truly good works, then, are based on obedience to the Law of God-the Ten Commandments. The failure to recognize this fact is an evasion of reality.
Notice how the Apostle James described the importance of obedience to the Law of God:
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:8-11)
James is referring to the Ten Commandments. The first four of the commandments show love to God, the last six show love to one’s neighbor. Obedience to this law constitutes good works. Paul describes this law in Romans, chapter seven. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12).
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)
Is the Law of God inspired Scripture? Yes, indeed! Does obedience to the Law of God constitute good works? Absolutely! “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Those who obey God’s Commandments and practice good works of all kinds become a witness to the ungodly (1 Pet. 2:12). But each man will be judged on his own merits. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:2-5).
Obedience to God, and practicing good works brings good things. We are admonished:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (Jas. 1:22-25)
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. (2 Cor. 9:7-8)
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. (Heb. 6:9-10)
Due to proper respect and reverence for the Creator, good works are based on obedience to God. In the Bible this is often called “the fear of the Lord.” And how does “fear of the Lord” react toward evil? “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way . . .” (Prov. 8:13). Those who practice good works simply cannot tolerate sin. They know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was a righteous man. God spared him from the destruction that befell Sodom. Peter tells us that God ” . . . delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:7-8). While it is not the Christian’s responsibility to judge the wicked, they nevertheless cannot endure close associations and fellowship with them. Paul tells us: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). Professor Moffatt renders this: “Bad company is the ruin of good character.” While the righteous are to hate the sin, they are not to hate the sinner. There is a difference. We cannot leave the world, but we can avoid intimate association with sinners.
Christians are instructed:
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
What about bad works? How does God view them? We will recall what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:24. He said some men’s sins are notorious and call for immediate judgment, while others come out only afterward. Obvious sins are written all over the faces of those who practice sin. “The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves” (Isa. 3:9). Not only do many of these sins destroy those who practice them, but they have disastrous effects on friends and loved ones. Many wicked are very defensive about their lifestyles and cannot understand why others get upset. How should the righteous man feel about sin? The Bible tells us: “An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked” (Prov. 29:27). So, how people feel about righteousness and sin depends on whether they are righteous, or wicked.
Bad works cannot be hidden from God any more than good works. The book of Job states: “For he [God] knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?” (Job 11:11). “For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21-22). “Therefore he knoweth their works, and he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed” (v. 25). The book of Psalms adds: “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (Ps. 90:8). Man cannot hide from God. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7). Jesus made it plain that both righteous and wicked works will be revealed for all to see. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3). Those who evade the reality of God’s omnipresence will someday come to realize that God cannot be misled. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
The fact is: There are blessings for good works and curses for evil.
Paul tells us:
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds. “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. (Rom. 2:4-9)
One who sets out on the path of good works must continue in them as long as he lives. On the other hand, if he turns from his evil works, the sinner will be forgiven.
When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. (Ezek. 33:13-16)
There is much in the Bible about good and bad works. Good works eventually lead to eternal life; bad works eventually lead to eternal death. The longer one evades this reality, refusing to face up to the consequences of evading the judgment of God, the more he or she can expect to suffer in this life, and face a much more serious consequence in the judgment.