Read: Matthew 5:13-16
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works. (v. 16)
As a pastor, I regularly encounter people outside the church who say, “I don’t go to church, but I try to be a good person.” I regularly encounter people inside the church who say, “I’m here because I want to be a good person.” Most people want to be “good,” and many believe the point of religion is to help achieve that goal.
The starting point of Christianity on this question is the assertion that we are not good. The Heidelberg Catechism argues that we cannot benefit from Christ’s salvation until we acknowledge our “sin and misery” (Q&A 2). Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). Our hard work is simply not enough to make us “good.”
It turns out that goodness is not something we produce but is something that’s produced in us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes believers as bearers of his light. When Jesus speaks of works that are “good” in Matthew 5:16, he uses an adjective that does not mean “morally pure” but “attractive.” The good works of the Christian are intended not to prove our goodness to God or others but rather to attract others to the goodness of God. By his Holy Spirit, God ignites his goodness in us, makes us attractive to others, and reassures us that we are good in God’s sight. —Ben Van Arragon
As you pray, ask God to make his goodness known to you, and through you.
About the Author
Ben Van Arragon is a pastor, husband, and father of two teenage daughters. He has served the First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit since 2008. He writes and produces video teaching on the Bible and Reformed creeds and confessions. His writing for Words of Hope includes series on Jeremiah, Exodus, and Work and Rest.