If I Do Enough Good Works, Won't That Be Enough To Get To Heaven?
Many people believe that if the sum total of their lives is more good than bad, then they'll make it to heaven. Even if people don't actually say they believe this, they live as though they do. It's a popular belief, and it's worth taking a look at.
In fact, almost every spiritual path known to man relies on good works to get to its version of heaven. Christianity is the one spiritual path where people need to rely on something completely different: grace. Note that Christianity is still big on doing good, but never for the sake of getting to heaven.
There are 3 problems with relying on good works to get to heaven.
Good works provide no measure of "good enough"
Good works offer no assurance of making it to heaven
Good works ask God to turn a blind eye to evil
Let's look at each one in turn...
Good Works Provide No Measure of "Good Enough"
Who decides what the necessary standard of good works is? Do we need to keep the Ten Commandments? The Five Pillars of Islam? The Golden Rule? Do we just need to do more good than bad? How much more? Is 51% good enough? Or is 85% the cut-off point? Who decides? And how do we know?
Even if we could all agree on one standard (and who says it's up to us?), how many could claim to have perfectly kept that standard? Could anyone claim to have kept every one of the 10 commandments perfectly, all the time? What about motives, as well as actions? What if you did more good actions than bad, but your motives were completely wrong? There are too many unresolved questions!
And without a definite standard from God, we don't know how he grades us. Does he grade on the curve, like schools do? Does he compare us against the best we could be, or against others? If others, do we get compared to Adolf Hitler, or to Mother Teresa?
Good Works Offer No Assurance of Making it to Heaven
When people hope that they do more good deeds than bad deeds, they are placing their lives on a scale. If the scale is tipped in the favour of good deeds, they make it! If not, they don't. The only problem is, no-one can be absolutely sure of the final outcome, until the end...And then it's too late. Maybe all through life, a person thinks he has enough good deeds, but if he's wrong, there's nothing that can be done when the flame of life flickers away.
Good Works Ask God to Approve of Evil
Let's imagine that 51% was the cut-off for making it to heaven. Everyone who had done at least 51% good works through their life would be in heaven. But that means heaven would become a place of evil and suffering. Even if each person in heaven contributed less than 50% evil, heaven would still be almost half full of evil!
That's not what heaven is all about! Heaven is a perfect place, and only those who are perfect will make it. It's a place of no suffering, no sin, and no evil. If God were to let in people who had less than perfect records, heaven would become as bad as earth. God would basically be saying that a little bit of evil doesn't matter.
This Doesn't Sound Too Good!!
If you're starting to wonder how anyone will make it to heaven, then your understanding of the problem is crystal clear. God is a God of justice, and so he can't "bend the rules". But God is also a God of love, and he wants to make it possible for everyone to get to heaven. In a sense, God has a problem. But He also has an incredible solution to this problem.
In another article, we look closely at the problem God had, and the solution He came up with. We also see just where good works fit in. And, we see how grace makes it possible for everyone and anyone to get to heaven.
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