For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10)
The apostle Paul makes sure that the reader knows the right relationship between faith and works. We are not saved by our works, but they are something in which we are to walk in light of being saved by grace through faith.
So, what are good works?
Rebecca recently looked at that term, in her weekly Theological Term of the Week series. Check it out.
Good works are something we do in the name of Christ, as evidence of our love for Him, in order to honour Him. It's a response that comes from a heart of gratitude for what's been done for us.
So, what does that include?
My first reaction to that is obedience to His word. What could be more good than obeying His word? We are not looking for rules, per se, but principles which nourish our hearts and shape our conduct every day, and with every choice we make.
Good works ought to point to God's glory. Does sharing the gospel (which we're commanded to do in Scripture) do that? Does worship (which we're also commanded to do) bring glory to God? Does helping the poor honour God? Does loving our neighbour as ourselves honour God? Of course they do.
The scope for what constitutes a "good work" is wide, indeed.
As a woman who was given a husband and children, evidence of my good works is serving them. The home is a wonderful place to do good works. But it doesn't stop there. While working in the home is mandated for Christian women (regardless of whether or not she's married and has children; single women live in homes, too), good works are not confined to caring for the home or acts of hospitality.
I believe it is a good work to teach ladies the Word of God. It is a good word to study the Scriptures diligently so that I understand them well enough to teach them. I believe it is a good work to probe theology as deeply as I can, so that I may not lead anyone astray. When my children were little, it was a good work for me to prepare lessons for them to learn the Scriptures. It was important that I make sure I taught them to the best of my ability. Now that my children are gone from home, I'm doing a good work by preparing weekly lessons for my students.
What about writing? Is that a good work? I believe that a woman who writes a book, blog post, or article which brings honour to God, and causes others to understand Him more is doing a good work.
Is doing work in an office, hospital, or classroom a good work? I believe it can be. When a woman participates by supporting her family financially, that is a good work. Working in a way that reflects her faith in Christ is a good work. Shining a light in a dark place is a good work.
Baking bread, knitting a sweater, canning and preserving, teaching our children: all good works.
Treating a co-worker with love and grace, helping a neighbour who has needs, and yes, learning solid hermeneutics: all good works.
As women, we occasionally get defensive about the ways we use our time. For every woman out there who thinks every woman ought to stay home with her children instead of working there is a woman who thinks that women should get out there and get busy in the workforce. It just depends on the circles you travel in. We don't need to defend our good works to other women. We just need to be accountable before God and if we're married, our husbands. Our motives need to be pure, and God's glory (not our own) be the focus.
So, let go ahead and bake our bread and homeschool our children. Let's get a job and work to the glory of God while we serve our families. By all means, let's have our priorities right, but let's not presume to tell others how they ought to work for God. It's called vocation, and everyone has her own. I know that for myself, when I'm concentrating more on what God has called me to do, I'm a lot less worried about what others are doing.