Many Christians expect to be in Heaven because they are “basically good,” as if they are not doing so many bad things that they would be destined for Hell. Assuming works are important, what kind of works qualify?
Heaven has a different standard for greatness.
On Earth, the greatest are those who have the most servants. In Heaven, the greatest are those who serve the most. Therefore, the works of giving matter, not the works of getting.
I must use what I have been given.
The wicked servant was condemned for not using what he had (Matthew 25:14–30). He made the bad mistake of thinking God expected more of him than what he could do. We may be called to cultivate, plant, sow, or water, but not one of us can claim glory for the increase. That’s what God does as we allow him to use our works. In the world, being “used” is demeaning, but in the Kingdom, being used of God is the greatest glory.
Those who cried, “Lord, didn’t we do many wonderful works in your name?” were condemned because they were not being used of God. Their “wonderful works” came from their self-serving motives, not with a desire to serve others and please the Lord.
We must bear good fruit. That’s why we were created.
Too much of Christianity and most other religions focus on works to earn God’s favor. Many do good works thinking God will then give them what they want, which is worshiping the Gifts of God rather than God the Giver, a kind of idolatry that looks good in form but not faith.
Some Christian doctrines say works don’t matter. That belief is well-supported by ignoring Bible verses that put works into perspective. We’re like branches of a grapevine. Failure to bear fruit results in being cut off from the vine.
Salvation involves more than being grafted into the vine.
Clearly, we are not saved “by” works, but we definitely are saved “for” works. James writes that we lack true faith without the evidence of works, which must be there or we’re foolish to believe we’re really saved and should anticipate being cut off.
We need not fear that doing good works will be too hard.
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” He’s talking about a yoked team of oxen where he is the lead ox, pulling most of the weight. As long as we’re pulling with him, the work is easy. But try pulling in another direction. Then the work will be hard.
As God’s servants, we merely need to do whatever he leads us to do. In the end, we should say, “We are unworthy servants who have only done our duty.” — Luke 17:10