It’s that time of year again people! You know that time of year. Everybody is getting into the holiday spirit, feeling thankful and charitable. So many people are gearing up for their annual charity events. Even more people are planning to meet their good deed quota by volunteering at a homeless shelter or an orphanage. These tasks are designed to make you feel good about yourself, pat yourself on the back because you have done a good deed. For most, this “spirit” lasts until New Year’s Day and then we are back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Why? Just why?
I have the honor of leading a nonprofit called Healing Hearts, a group who serves the homeless and the needy year around. Recently, we partnered with the Community Kitchen in hopes to do more for the community. I hope that we have so far, and I am confident we will in the future. In a conversation with one of the organizers of the Kitchen, we discussed volunteer projections. I was not at all surprised when he told us that we will have more than enough help in the next two months. In fact, we may have to turn some away. Last week, we did just that.
There is no question as to why the shelters are suddenly filled with people trying to help. Some are realizing the blessing they have and want to give back. Some want to teach their children that there are people out their less fortunate. Some want to be able to say they volunteered, or they donated. That’s all fine. In fact, that was me at one time. But there are also those lost souls who think that they are actually getting points to go to heaven by “being a good Christian” and donating time or material things. This my friends is where I leave you. This is just not the truth. And there are so many who truly believe this blatant lie.
Just a few days ago, I attempted to recruit some friends coming to town to help with a clothing drive. One of my friends told me with such pride, that he volunteered to by Christmas presents for a child this year.
“That is sweet,” I said. “Do you do it every year?”
“I try,” he responded. “You know it’s the season and all. Kids shouldn’t go without.”
“The season?” I fished for more.
“Yeah, the holiday season—Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Lord’s birthday. Heard of those?”
Yes, brothers and sisters. I did it. I laughed. My question was, “And what about the rest of the days of the year?”
I went on my rant about “the season of good cheer” to the point where I went from sounding cynical to pure frustration. And dear heart, I was irritated. I know I am not alone. I have friends who share my sentiments. But what is worse, is those who think these “good deeds” whatever time of year it may be, will do anything for them when it comes to salvation. It does not. We are saved by our faith, not our good deeds regardless the motivation.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.
As members of the body of Christ, we work to share the gospel of Christ to all who have not heard. We share, we serve because we are saved, and we know that these good deeds do not secure our salvation. The good works we do as members of the body of Christ will be rewarded by Jesus himself in heaven.
Behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his works shall be.
Make no mistake, your volunteer work is a good thing. I do not discourage anyone from helping those in need. Beloved, search your heart for motive. Do not allow the world to program you to believe that a certain time of year is the time to remember your brothers and sisters in need. And do not think that you can earn your salvation. These happy thoughts and good feelings temporarily earned are fleeting. But, the gift of God is eternal life. Share the everlasting gift of salvation throughout the year. Even for those who are saved, we will never do enough to earn our eternal home. It is a gift purchased by God.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
But most importantly, the thing we can give, is the gift of the good news about salvation. This is something that will keep us forever and ever. Amen.