Updated: Sep 21
It is possible to invest one's entire life into meaningless things. Hence, perhaps, the easiest way for this to happen: spend your time, talent, treasure, and influence trying to make a name for yourself. With a philosophical tone, the writer of Ecclesiastes teaches that such actions become equivalent to trying to grab the wind. As a result, you’re left feeling empty-handed, exhausted, and disappointed. In other words, meaningless.
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. -Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NIV)
We’ve all heard it, “Keeping up with the Joneses…” It implies staying ahead of those around us; better cars, houses, jobs, education...But spending your life trying to get ahead of someone else results in living a meaningless life. Because ultimately, it’s always “someone else” that you must catch and surpass. Metaphorically, it’s like chasing after the wind. You’re not going to take hold of what you're chasing.
Thankfully, there is an alternative that can result in peace, fulfillment, and even significance. You can live your life doing good works. This decision will fill your life with purpose.
I once spoke to the Kansas City Chiefs during a chapel service. In prayer, preparing for my time with them, I felt many of the players had been taken advantage of in various ways. They were big, strong men, not easily intimidated. But, many of them had wanted to do good in their neighborhoods; however, greedy, manipulative people had taken advantage of their generosity. I sensed the result of these experiences was that some of them were backing away from charitable living, thus subtracting meaning from their wealth. I have no idea if my discernment was correct, but I felt so strongly about it that I borrowed the words of Mother Teresa to encourage them:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Even though the world is not always a nice place, we must be people who value doing good for others. God does not give us an “out” when it comes to doing good works. Unfortunately, there will always be people who take advantage of others' kindness and willingness to do good in the world. This can be discouraging but should never deter us from doing good. We should always choose to do good anyway.
If you haven’t already had the opportunity to watch last week's message, God Is...Light, I would invite you to do so. In that message, I shared how:
We RECEIVE the light by BELIEVING God’s Word.
We RELEASE the light by OBEYING God’s Word.
Are you releasing light into the World by doing the GOOD WORKS of God’s Word?
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. -Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
Obeying God’s Word -- doing good works -- allows us to shine spiritual light into the world around us! When you love God, you release light into the world. When you love people, you release light into the world. And the world ends up a brighter place for everyone! Without these actions, our faith is equivocally dead.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead… -James 2:26 (NKJV)
The summary, if you're not doing good works, your faith is dead. We should be clothing the naked, feeding the poor, caring for the prisoners, widows, and orphans. But, don’t get it twisted; we can not earn our salvation through good works. Instead, we are saved by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Yet, it is essential to understand that Heaven records our good works here on Earth. And, God has chosen the mechanism of our good works to introduce people to His light. So, activate your faith! And, keep D. L. Moody’s humorous but true statement in mind:
I’m glad we are not saved by our good works because I don’t want to sit in Heaven listening to people brag about how they got there.
– D. L. Moody
The New Testament is full of references on how important it is for Christians to do good. Paul speaks on this topic multiple times across seven of his New Testament letters. Here are three of his references:
They profess to know God, but in works, they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
-Titus 1:16 (NKJV)
That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.
- Colossians 1:10 (NKJV)