"Works" of the Law or of Christian charity?


#1

This discussion was started in another thread. It relates to the error Calvin and Luther make in reading the writings of Paul, and interpreting the “works” as works of Christian charity. Does Jesus call us to do “works” or not? My contention is that Paul in all of his writings is referring to “works” of the Law, those things required by the Jewish Law. Paul was the Apostle to the gentiles. There were problems which arose from allowing gentiles become Christians. Some of the Apostles felt that the gentiles needed to first become Jews (following the “works” of the Law) Paul rightfully points out that this is not the case, you do not need to do “works” of the Law to follow our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
In Mt 25 Jesus demonstrates He is calling us to action, not to sit idly. In His own words:

Mt 25, 14 For even as a man going into a far country, called his servants, and delivered to them his goods; 15 And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey. 16 And he that had received the five talents, went his way, and traded with the same, and gained other five. 17 And in like manner he that had received the two, gained other two. 18 But he that had received the one, going his way digged into the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 But after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them. 20 And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents, behold I have gained other five over and above. 21 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me: behold I have gained other two. 23 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 But he that had received the one talent, came and said: Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed. 25 And being afraid I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here thou hast that which is thine. 26 And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28 Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. 29 For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. 30 And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Your talents are the “goods” God has given you, He expects you to use them well, not to sit on the sideline.


#2

Mt 25, 31 And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. 32 And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. 34 Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36 Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? 39 Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? 40 And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Reading these words of our Lord Jesus the Christ tells us He is calling us to do His “works” of Christian charity.
Not doing His “works”:

Mt 25, 41 Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. 44 Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? 45 Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.
46 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.

Now there seems to be an obvious conflict between the way Calvin and Luther interpret the writings of Paul and this account in Matthew. Both cannot be correct, if, Calvin and Luther are correct. If Paul is however referring to “works” of the Law, then both passages are certainly compatible. So who is wrong? Jesus and Paul or Calvin and Luther?


#3

This is not just idle conjecture, reading Matthew 25, 41-46 those who refuse to do these “works” our savior calls us to do are doomed. We need to educate our separated brethren, they’re reading Paul wrong. We do not “earn” our way into heaven. Our salvation is a result of our faith through the free gift of grace bestowed upon us by our God. Nothing we do “earns” us our way into heaven. When we do “works” we are accepting this grace offered by God. We are following the demands Jesus puts on us, and yes, He does put demands on us.


#4

[quote=Tom]This is not just idle conjecture, reading Matthew 25, 41-46 those who refuse to do these “works” our savior calls us to do are doomed. We need to educate our separated brethren, they’re reading Paul wrong. We do not “earn” our way into heaven. Our salvation is a result of our faith through the free gift of grace bestowed upon us by our God. Nothing we do “earns” us our way into heaven. When we do “works” we are accepting this grace offered by God. We are following the demands Jesus puts on us, and yes, He does put demands on us.
[/quote]

Hi Tom,

You will find part of the misunderstanding arises in the difference in how “good works” come about. As Catholics we believe good works come from as you said accepting the grace offered by God. Each and every good work comes from saying yes to God. It is a conscious decision to continue to follow Christ. Obviously the more we accept the grace offered the easier and more “natural” the process, but it is a process that we can consciously stop.

I find that at least in the Evangelical and Charasmatic crowd I ran with before, the good works just “naturally flow” from a Christian. In other words, I am not making any conscious decision, but it is just a natural occurance of a person who is a follower of Christ. The problems it personally caused for me were when projects would come up, and I wouldn’t always want to do them, but eventually choose to do them anyway, it would make me feel like a “bad” Christian because I didn’t “naturally” want to do the job.

Thankfully for me, there is a Bible story that shows the one who does the Father’s will can first say no, as long as they then go and do the job!

God Bless,
Maria


#5

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