The Christianity Today Politics Blog recently ran a short post concerning the death of Elizebeth Edwards. Among her views concerning her religious beliefs quoted in the article was this:
"I appreciate other people's prayers for that [a cure for cancer], but I believe that we are given a set of guidelines, and that we are obligated to live our lives with a view to those guidelines. And I don't believe we should live our lives that way for some promise of eternal life, but because that's what's right. We should do these things because that's what's right."
One person wrote in the comments section responding to this quote:
"...And I agree with her there. We should live a certain way because it is right, not to earn any favors from God. It is right and it pleases God."
The following is an expanded version of my response at the CT Politics Blog:
It is true that we should love God more for who He is than just for the rewards of His mercy. Any good work that we do should be undertaken without mixed motives. But the quote from Elizebeth Edwards reveals the mistaken belief that to do a good work to please God is on the same level as doing good works to please men. Jesus warned us not to pray, give to the poor or fast to be seen by men. (Mt. 6: 1-3, 5, 16) But Jesus also commanded us to pray, give to the poor and fast in secret and the Father who sees in secret will reward us openly. (Mt. 6: 4, 6, 18) The rewards Jesus speaks of are not necessarily health and wealth or any other thing we may desire. (See here) The Father gave His Son so that our sins could be forgiven and so we can have fellowship with Him here on earth and for eternity in heaven. Not to be mindful of such rewards is to neglect the Father's will for each individual and the cost He paid to see that His purposes for us are fulfilled. Doing good works to please God is an inseperable part of pleasing God. Jesus told His disciples that if their righteousness did not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5: 20) Jesus told the rich young ruler, "...If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven..." (Mt. 19:21) Jesus pictured what righteous deeds look like in the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Mt. 25: 31-46) Those that minister to the vulnerable and despised ones are the righteous ones. They are the ones who receive eternal life. You might argue: "Wait a moment. In this parable, the sheep did not know that they were ministering to Christ by performing those good works. Doesn't this prove Elizebeth Edward's contention?" No. Jesus spoke this parable for our benefit so that we may be encouraged to do good deeds and receive eternal life. Paul commands us to walk worthy of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. (1Thess. 2:12) If we are truly abiding in Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit will guide us so that we engage in the works the Father and the Son want us to engage in. It is only by the Holy Spirit's guidance and empowerment that we can do what is truly right. It is right that we examine our motives. If we do good works that are inspired by the love of God and men that God Himself pours out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), we can be sure that we are pleasing God and doing what is right. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mt. 6: 19-21)
All scripture quotes from the NKJV