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Works (Good Works)

“Prove yourself a god to the unfortunate by imitating the mercy of God. There is nothing so godly in human beings as to do good works…When you have done something good, remember [Christ’s] words, “without me you can do nothing” [John 15:5].” (St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Mark the Hermit)

“The branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it remains connected to the vine [John 15:4] , from which its life and sustenance flows. As far as the disciples were concerned, they would produce no fruit from themselves if they did not remain in their relationship to Jesus because the eternal life which a disciple must possess in order to bear fruit originates with Jesus; He is the source of all life and productivity for the disciple.” (NET Bible, John 15:4)

“The virtues are like seeds that the Spirit plants in the heart. To grow they must be cultivated, that is, practiced….“the practice of the virtues depends on our own will and resolution”…Yet ultimately, the Lord produces the fruit of virtue, for the source of both the will and the power to do good is the Spirit. It is as Paul said, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).” (Philokalia, Fr. Basil)

“Christ reveals that our efforts to do good depend upon our submitting to Him from the heart. He alone can give us the power to do what is just and pleasing to God… The impure heart craves the good things of this life and becomes attached to material comfort, disregarding the condition of the soul…The impure heart is the greatest barrier between ourselves and God, for it separates us from Him who alone is able to restore in us the power to do good…our words and deeds – what comes out of us – reveal what truly lies within our hearts.” (Dynamis 7/24/2014, 7/3/2019)

“Christ did not merely buy back our life from death as a ransom, leaving us free until we sin again. Rather, Christ gave His life as a ransom for many, utterly overcoming death once and for all….Because death has been overcome, this means that it can never again exercise any claim over us. Likewise, without the power of death, without the destruction and condemnation that come from sin, sin can no longer truly ensnare us if we have come to follow Christ, and have received the same Spirit through whose power He arose from the dead. This does not, of course, mean that we are now free to sin without consequences. Rather, we as Christians have finally truly been set free to be able to serve God in our lives in this world, and spend eternity with Him in the world to come. Through Christ's death we have received the remission of sins, and through repentance we are now set free to do good for the first time, always remembering that we are not our own, but that we have been bought with a price, in order that God might be glorified in our lives.” (Fr. Stephen De Young)

“…he [Saint Seraphim of Sarov] raises the question of how pious activities may affect our life in Christ. Although in Baptism we professed Christ, we may forget Whose we are and slip into supposing that “the Christian life consisted merely in doing good works.” No! There is a purpose for pious activities: to acquire thereby “the grace of God’s Spirit.” All activities in life based merely on doing good, without assuring that they bring the grace of the Spirit of God, are scorned by the Holy Fathers, as Solomon taught long ago: “There are ways that seem right to a man, however their ends look to the depths of Hades” (Pr 16:23).” (Dynamis 7/25/2021)

“Paul wishes nothing but good for Israel, but their zeal is not based in truth. If they had merely been ignorant in their rejection of Christ, then their offense would certainly be pardonable. However, theirs was more than ignorance, for it was not that they simply did not know Christ, but they were bent on establishing their own righteousness rather than submitting to the righteousness of God. In other words, they trusted in themselves and their works and rejected the way of faith when it was presented to them.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Romans 10:1-3)

“…there is no thought that we must accumulate merits in order to justify ourselves before God, although our faithful often seem (as evidenced in Confession) to feel that if we are to be saved, our good works must outweigh our sins. Nor, on the other hand, is there a denial of the place and importance of good works in Christian life (Ephesians 2:8-10!). Salvation is accomplished by grace in response to faith. But that faith cannot be passive; it must express itself, not merely by confessing Jesus as “personal Lord and Savior,” but by feeding, clothing, visiting and otherwise caring for the “least” of Jesus’ brethren (Mt 25)…Good works should thus be understood to be a response rather than a means to salvation.” (Fr. John Breck)

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” Saint Paul declares that he will show us “a more excellent way” 1 Corinthians 12:31); then, in the three verses that follow, he thrice repeats an identical phrase “but have not love” (vss 1,2,3). Thus, he underscores the key issue for us: many fine activities, many notable efforts, many good works and many admirable deeds, if accomplished without love as their foundational motive (as the force impelling them), are truly a waste of energy…Take note: if we have not love, we have, in fact, abandoned that which is the essential and indispensable element of any action we might undertake as followers of Christ.” (Dynamis 7/1/2021)

“Helping a person in need is good in itself. But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done… If you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully. The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help, but rather will feel glad to have caused you pleasure by receiving your help. And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.” (St. John Chrysostom)

“…faith is intimately united to good works, which are genuine expressions of true faith. Faith and works cannot be separated.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Romans 12:9-16)

“...the difference between “works” and “good works” depends on the origin of the deed and what it exhibits. Consider your gift to a charity. What is the source of your act? Is it the desire to win the admiration of others?  Is it to need to ease your conscience about the plight of the poor?  Is it because your friend asked you for a contribution and you could not say “no”? In each case, your “work” does not come from faith nor does it demonstrate faith. On the other hand, if you give to the poor because of your love of neighbor in trust that God will supply your needs and the needs of others through you (2 Cor. 9:8),  your “good work” shows your faith.” (Fr. Basil)

“My fourth point is that this has just as much to do with who we are as what we do - what might be called the tension between being and doing. Any Christian work, in order to be truly in the service of Christ, is grounded in faith, prayer and love…prayer itself is an active ministry. This is what distinguishes Christian service from secular social work….we are not advocating the frenetic, often self-serving activity of do-gooders, who feel justified by their sacrifice of time as the pharisee felt justified by his adherence to the law… we must resist the temptation to equate sanctity with religious observance, or faith with involvement, or salvation with good works alone. It is not only the morsel of bread which we give that nourishes the hungry man - because we believe that man does not live by bread alone and that he is more than his stomach - but it is the love of Christ which is being manifested by the act of feeding that man which indeed nourishes his weary soul and may bring him to repentance and salvation.” (Denise Jillions)

“The soul is situated in the middle of the struggle between virtue and vice. If the soul uses the body as it should, it makes itself more spiritual. But if it departs from the Spirit and yields itself to evil desires, it renders it more earthy. Do you see how everywhere he [St. Paul per Galatians 5:22-6:2] is not speaking of the essence of the flesh but of moral choice that is inclined toward virtue or vice? So why does he refer to “the fruit of the Spirit”? Because evil works come from us alone, and hence he calls them works, while the good works require not only the resolution of our will but the kindness of God.” (St. John Chrysostom)

“The devil, however, starts working as soon as he sees someone living up to faith’s commitments, someone who has a reputation for virtue, who does good works. He tries to worm vanity into him, to make it possible for him to be puffed up with pride, become presumptuous, lose trust in prayer and not attribute to God the good that he does but to take all the credit himself.” (St. Ambrose of Milan)


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