“Many human activities, good in themselves, are not good because of the motive for which they are done. For example, fasting, vigils, prayer, psalmody, (the singing of hymns), acts of charity and hospitality are by nature good. But when performed for the sake of self-esteem (vainglory, self glorification) they are not good. In everything we do, God searches out our purpose to see whether we do it for Him or for some other motive… quite clearly He bestows blessings only when something is done for the right purpose. For God’s judgment looks not at the actions but the purpose behind them.” – St Maximos the Confessor
By nature, the way we are created, we know that some things are good to do. We know that it is good to help the poor, the sick, the old, the homeless, the broken and the lonely. We know this by heart. What is harder to realize is who and where the broken are? There are so many ways that a person can be poor, broken or lonely. How do we know who they are? Sometimes it’s obvious just by the very situation you observe. Brokenness can be openly manifest in addiction, sickness and in situations of abuse. But often it is hidden and the only way to find out who is broken and needs help is to recognize ones own brokenness, it takes one to know one. We must face our own failures and sin to be able to see who needs help. If we hope to help other persons without recognizing that we need help as well we run a great risk of falling into the pit of pride. We risk projecting our own sin and struggles on others instead of helping them. We risk helping others in an attempt to ‘take away’ the guilt we feel for failing to help before or for other wrongs we committed. We might help others so that we may feel a little bit better about ourselves. These are all false motivations that changes good works into something else. Good works only remain good if they are done with good and true intention and motivation. Good and true intention and motivation finds it’s source in acknowledging that it is only Christ that can bring peace to the war in your heart. To the big empty hole you try to fill with everything from ‘good deeds’ to dulling chemicals. Everything done repetitively without Christ will turn into an idol/addiction. In terms of restoring the brokenness of our hearts, a legal approach is not sufficient. “I do one good thing so that I may cancel out one bad thing.” The legal system is only there to show us that it does not work; the brokenness is still there and out of recognizing that it is, we turn to (repent) Him that He may heal us from the inside out. Christ and the Holy Spirit works with vessels that are empty (or wants to be). Good deeds only remain good when we yield to Christ and let the Holy Spirit do them through us. Empty your heart during Lent, ask the Holy Spirit to fill it with His grace and healing power.
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:20 – 21