When Doing Good Is Sinful
Everybody knows it’s sinful to do forbidden things like cussing, gambling, and committing sexual immoral acts. We understand to do these things breaks God’s heart. That is why, in Luke 15, we find it easy to condemn the younger son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He lived wildly and did not come “to his senses” until he had lost everything.
But do you know you can sin and break God’s heart by doing good? That’s right, doing “good things” can be sinful as well. How can this be true? Because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)
You see, sin is not just doing what is wrong. It can also be doing what is good in the wrong way or for the wrong reason. And according to Romans 14:23, when we do anything, good or bad, which is not an expression of our faith in Christ and His love for us, what we are doing is actually sinful. And such “good deeds” break the Father’s heart.
That is the point Jesus was making when He introduced the behavior of the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Here was a young man who served his father and who could say to him: “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time.” Unlike his younger brother, he remained under the authority of his father, serving his father dutifully. That sounds wonderful, but is it?
No, he got it wrong as well. After reminding his father of all his good works, the elder son then revealed his motive: “And yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.” This elder son had no faith in his father’s love and generosity. He was trusting in his ability to work hard rather than in his father’s goodness. His good works, therefore, were the expression of his unbelief in his father.
You can hear the disappointment in his father’s voice when he says to his unbelieving elder son, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” That is, “Why do you think you need to do good to get good from me? How come you doubt my love for you? You are breaking my heart. Stop behaving like a servant. You are my son.”
Child of God, your Heavenly Father does not want you trying to earn His love by doing good. And when you try to do so, your good works actually become a demonstration of unbelief in His love and grace. This breaks His heart. Doing good, then, becomes sinful.
What should you do instead? Acknowledge your Heavenly Father’s unconditional love and grace. Rejoice in all He has freely given to you in Christ. Believe all He has are already yours. He’s your dad, not your employer! Then do good, not to get good, but because you already got good, more good than you could ever deserve!
That’s when your good works will glorify your Heavenly Father and bring Him much joy and delight!