"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Sin Bravely" -- Motives & Good Deeds

"...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


Carmen said...

Why do you do what you do?

All kinds of reasons. Sometimes because I have to. Sometimes because I want to. Sometimes because I need to. Sometimes because it's what I'm used to doing.

Why do you do good deeds?

Sometimes, I truly enjoy bringing joy to others. I WANT to be of help for no other reason than to to simply help. Other times, I do good deeds because I know it's not the right thing to do. I do not think it earns me brownie points with God but I do know that choosing to do something that I know is pleasing to God even though I may not feel like it is a sacrifice of my flesh and that's what His Word asks of us.

Present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable....

Sometimes, I do good deeds to that my children or our youth will see an example of what is the right choice to make.

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?

Sometimes they flow naturally and others times it's a really struggle and not especially enjoyable. Sometimes it's not natural but it's not necessarily a struggle. Just something I need to remind myself to look for the opportunities for.

I rarely do things for the eternal rewards. I am not motivated much by rewards that are that far away. I may be motivated knowing I am making my Creator smile but I don't think "oh, there's one more ruby in my mansion someday". LOL

Amber said...

I'm actually curious as to your answer for why you do good deeds. :)

As for myself, any time I do anything good, it's because it's the right thing to do. I don't think I get rewarded for it, I think it's something that we, as Christians, are told to do. Of course, we can only manage to do good things when we're in God's Will...

Laila said...

I guess I do good deeds because I think they are good, and because I want to be closer to God. I believe that doing bad things dulls our God-consciousness, and doing good things promotes it. I am not used to thinking about afterlife rewards.

I remember when my hubby told me about how selflessly his mum had looked after her mother and then father-in-law when they were old and ill, for a number of years until their death. They each moved in with the family, and she was their full-time carer. They were a big family in a small apartment. It was very moving to hear about. She had plenty of room for them in her heart even though there was no room in the apartment. He told me that she was comforted in the hardship by the assurance of a reward in heaven for this. It was (in some ways) a pleasure for her to serve, at least partly because of the prospect of a reward. I couldn't really argue with that. I guess it is one of many things that can encourage us to do good.

I seem to remember Jesus teaching about rewards in heaven, so I don't think it's an alien concept to Christianity, although it seems not to be emphasised.

The other thing I wanted to comment on was about seeking purpose and fulfilment. I don't think someone like my MIL would have had to look for this. I think it's a consequence of a less demanding lifestyle, a lifestyle where survival does not require much of our effort. Our prosperity in the developed world is unprecedented, as is the inequality in wealth across the world (and within countries). Perhaps the common lack of a sense of purpose IS selfish in that our countries have caused it by exploiting poor countries? (the radical socialist in me is coming out, lol!) Maybe the author of your book is right that we should focus more on helping the poor. In fact, maybe that is a good purpose for us to have, rather than looking for it in work or hobbies or whatever. I think it's in line with what Jesus taught too?

Very challenging stuff, and interesting, thanks for posting it!

Susanne said...

Carmen, I loved your answers. I can strongly relate especially to the eternal rewards example at the end. Ha, ha. Thanks for sharing all that. :)

Amber, you are so holy! :-P No really, that's a great answer. Hmmm. I hope I do good deeds because they are the right things to do. I'll have to think on that. I believe I'm more like Carmen -- "all kinds of reasons." Does that suffice or do you want me to delve deeper and be more specific? :)

Laila, I'm glad you chimed in on this topic. I am not used to thinking of afterlife rewards either...so I don't really.

I enjoyed the example you gave of your MIL and I do think she found purpose and fulfillment in that. Jesus teaches us that serving others is the way to the top in God's kingdom. So definitely looking out for the sick and the poor is a good thing. I hope to do more of it.

I greatly appreciate all of you commenting on this post!

Amber said...


I'm so glad you acknowledge that. *attempts to adjust halo* Dangit! This thing won't stay on straight! *fusses with it* Oh! Brilliant plan! *perches halo on points of her horns* Excellent! *puts on 'holy' face* Now, where were we.... ;)

I think, honestly, that it comes more from my grandfather than any sense of being good. He was the only positive male role model I had, growing up, and I adore him. And to him, you did things for people, you helped them, because that's just what was done. It was *right*. End of story. Now, he was a devout Lutheran, so was there perhaps some religious reasoning behind his actions that I was unaware of? Maybe. But I don't think so, I think that's just the way he was. (And I could go into that, into all the things that I know that I believe made him who he is, but that's not actually germaine to the topic, and long winded, and like to make me cry.) So, when I do manage to do good, it's because of that. I don't think about it, and I certainly don't run around doing all the good things I could be doing, but when I do, it's not because of any conscious choice on my part, really. It's just what's done. *shrug*

Susanne said...

Amber, I *loved* reading about your sweet grandpa. He sounds like a winner through and through!

You are so funny. Yeah, secure that halo there, dearie. On your horns? Ahahahahahha! You make me laugh! :)