Do Good Workers Do “Good Works”? A Biblical Review Of The Meaning Of “Good Works” In New Testament Marketplace Contexts

This paper is co-authored by Joshua M. Greever, PhD and David Kotter, PhD

According to the Apostle Paul, Christians are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). The church has historically understood such good works as acts of charity, volunteer service, mercy ministries, and working for nonprofit organizations. While the concept of good works in the New Testament can include such work, several New Testament texts demonstrate that Christians also fulfill the call to good works in other venues, such as in the marketplace and even in the home. In the marketplace, the New Testament—especially Paul—clearly links the concept of good works with doing good and honest work for wages or profits. Such work is pleasing to the Lord in and of itself, and thus honest wages or profits are a sign of obedience to the Lord and do not undermine but rather undergird generosity and other acts of charity. Further, the New Testament also indicates that Christians who do good work in the context of the home fulfill the good works for which they were created. Following the lead of the wise woman in Proverbs 31, the New Testament portrays several women in the early church (e.g., Tabitha, Lydia) who perform good works that support generosity within the context of the marketplace and the home. In line with this, in Titus 2, Paul urges young women to work well in the context of the home so that the word of God is not reviled. Such texts indicate that Christians fulfill the call of good works in the context of home.

In order to demonstrate our thesis, we will briefly survey texts that point toward good works as acts of charity, as it is important to recognize the validity of the church’s interpretation concerning good works. The remainder of the paper will point to select New Testament evidence that supports the concept of good works in the marketplace and in the home. In the conclusion we will discuss various implications for our study, and it will be suggested that the many New Testament texts that are ambiguous about the context for good works should no longer be restricted in their application to acts of charity but should include Christian good works in the marketplace and the home.

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Joshua Greever, PhD, is an adjunct professor of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University and an adjunct professor of Religion at Liberty University Online.
David Kotter, PhD, is an associate professor of New Testament Studies at Colorado Christian University.
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