"...If someone desires from me a service, I can render him, I will gladly do it out of goodwill. . . . All our works should be of such a nature that they flow from pleasure and love . . . since for ourselves we need nothing to make us pious."
~ Martin Luther
As previously mentioned, in this book Sin Bravely, Mark Ellingsen seeks to challenge readers with a view he claims is counterculture to the typical American mindset. He evokes more of a community-minded outlook where the poor are taken better care of as opposed to our self-centered, individualistic (dare I say capitalistic?) society where we seek to prosper ourselves by working longer and harder and using people in the process. All for what? So we can purchase more things and achieve a certain lifestyle standard. He claims we even do this in our spirituality thus the success of The Purpose Driven Life (where we are seeking purpose and fulfillment in our lives, itself a self-centered thought and act) and prosperity gospel preachers (you do X and God will prosper you -- I think we all can see the selfishness of that, right?).
Here is a bit more from the book.
"Good works are not troubling, Luther claims elsewhere, because brave sinners understand that they don't have to do them. Brave sinners know that they get no points with God for doing good deeds since all that they do remains mired in sin. As a result the good that is done by them is God's work making good out of the fallible, all-too-egocentric things that they do. When you are a brave sinner, you are no longer caught up in what you are doing, but focused on the transcendent reality bigger than you are (God) who makes good out of what you do."
What do you think? Honestly my first thoughts went back to John 15 where Jesus told us in order to be fruitful we must remain in Him. He claimed without Him, we could do nothing! And the Bible teaches the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace and all those other good things. It never says we can do those things on our own, out of the goodness of our own hearts.
"Brave sinning is surely good medicine for a society addicted to drugs and the highs resulting from wealth, power, influence, accumulation of the latest trinkets, and celebrity. Who needs those artificial highs when God . . . is giving you this life of joy through participation in the big projects of life?"
"Of course this joy is not naive and 'Pollyannaish.' In a paradoxical way, there is something very freeing, even comforting and inspiring, in becoming realistic about human motives, in bravely recognizing that in all we do, even in our good deeds, human beings are seeking (sometimes frantically) self-fulfillment."
I recall a couple years ago when a friend of a different faith and I were talking about good deeds. Somehow the conversation came around to the reasons we do them.
I asked, "Why do you do good deeds?"
With no hesitation at all.
"For the rewards I'll receive."
Is this selfish? A good, neutral or bad motive?
Why do you do what you do? Why do you do good deeds? Do they just flow naturally from you or do you purposefully do them in order to find pleasure, fulfillment or seek the rewards that you believe God offers for them?
quotes from pages 111, 112