Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
What does it mean to you to “do good”? Many Christians today think of living the Christian life especially in terms of avoiding evil. Being a Christian means keeping your life pure, staying out of trouble, not doing something that will hurt someone else. As long as they don’t do anything wrong, many Christians believe that they are living the Christian life.
But is “not doing anything wrong” the same thing as “doing good”? Doesn’t the salvation Jesus’ won for us inspire us to shoot for something a little higher than staying out of jail? Christian love is an active thing. It does something, not nothing. Doing good means helping others. It works hard at providing for our families and raising them in a godly way. It puts in an honest day’s work at the office or in the shop and wants to see my employer thrive. It looks for places to volunteer–at school, for charities, in the community. It wants to share with others. Doing good is love in action, not love trying to get away with as little as possible. Then it is truly the kind of service born of salvation, our sacrifice of praise and thanks to God.
And how does he feel about all of this? It is his pleasure. “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Sometimes we are so careful not to give anyone the impression that you can earn your salvation or pay off your own sins that we fail to mention the truth taught here. God is pleased with the service his free salvation inspires in us. That does not mean that our service is a condition we must meet for his love. This does not deny that even our best work is still tainted by sin, and far from perfect, and in need of his forgiveness.
But God is pleased that faith and salvation are producing changed lives in his children nonetheless. We often refer to ourselves as his children, and perhaps this provides a good picture of the pleasure he takes in our praises and good deeds. When you started doing household chores for your parents back when you were a child, your work probably left a little something to be desired. If you mowed the lawn, there may have been thin strips of unmowed grass across the yard that had to be mowed again. If you washed the dishes, there may have been some that needed to be washed a second time. If you did the laundry, maybe you let a pair of blue jeans get in with the whites and turned everything light blue one time. Your work needed a certain amount of your parents’ forgiveness. They may have had to fix your mistakes for you. It wasn’t perfect. But they were pleased that you were trying and you were growing. They wouldn’t be satisfied if it didn’t get better by adulthood. But for the time, they were pleased with your efforts.
God is never happy with our sin and imperfection. He can’t be and still be holy. But he does forgive it. And he is genuinely pleased with the things that come as a product of the faith he has planted in our hearts, the Spirit who has made our bodies his home, the salvation through which he has called us to faith. We don’t have to be afraid to serve. We can be confident that our service born of salvation is his pleasure.
Christmas is still about God’s salvation, the work that he has done in service to us. But we can’t believe that God has left heaven and come to earth in such a humble way to save us without being changed. We want to respond. We want to serve. May the miracle of Jesus’ birth give birth to the miracle of faith and service in us.