Works refer to the outer demonstration or manifestation of inner or unseen realities. For example a person could be said to be kind which is an inner disposition or reality but this can only be verified by an act of kindness or consistent acts of kindness.
Works can be said to be the fruits of a tree. Jesus warning about false prophets uses this analogy. He said in Matthew 7:17 NKJV – Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. In this analogy we can liken the tree to the heart of man and the fruits to the works of man.
This shows that good works are an offshoot of and a testament to a good heart. A tree is recognized mainly by its fruits. If you see mangoes hanging from the branches of a tree, this is confirmation that what you are looking at is a mango tree and not an orange tree.
Jesus speaking to His disciples in Matthew 5:16 said; Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The primary purpose of the good works that any Christian does is to give glory to God. When people see our good works, it provides a confirmation to them that we are a good tree because only a good tree can produce good works consistently.
Because this world is by default evil and human nature selfish, when we manifest good works that go contrary to the nature and the ways of the world, people are intrigued and want to investigate the reason you are able to behave is such a manner. For the believer, the root of these good works is Christ and when people realize this it provides a great witness for Jesus.
In Mark 10:18, Jesus said “only God is truly good. This means that the root of every truly good work is God. If only God is truly good then only God can manifest truly good works. This was the case with Jesus during His earthly ministry. He went about preaching, teaching and manifesting good works and even though many people didn’t immediately believe His message, even a Pharisee agreed that no one could do the things He did except God was with them. John 3:2. The works of Jesus provided witness to the truth that God was with Him. This is why when Jesus’ disciples were struggling to believe Him, He told His disciples that if they can’t believe His words, they should believe Him because of the works that He did. This shows that the works we manifest are a testament to who we are on the inside.
As Christians, when we manifest good works, it is physical proof of who we are on the inside. When we walk in love, kindness, joy and other fruits of the spirit, unbelievers are surprised at our responses to the same situations they face and they will want to know the reason we are able to respond that way. This is the best opportunity to witness for Christ and let them know that it is Christ in you that makes all the difference.
However, it is important to point out that the world has now realized the value of these good works and character traits and many people now try to manifest them without having a relationship with Jesus. Such good works cannot be sustained and can be likened to placing mangoes on an orange tree to project the image that the tree is a mango tree. Even if you are successful at hanging the mangoes on the orange tree, the tree can never produce another set of mangoes because it doesn’t have the capacity to do so internally. Good works not rooted in Christ can never be sustained.
Also, the motive of any good works not rooted in Christ is questionable. Most times, people do such works for selfish reasons and so the works do not eventually give glory to God.
Good works are important but having a good heart precedes doing good works and only a person who has been saved by Jesus can have a good heart. Every other heart outside of Jesus is desperately wicked and in need of salvation. As believers, we do not do good works so that our hearts can be good. Rather, we do good works because our hearts are good. A believer with an un-renewed mind will likely still manifest works that are not of God but as his mind gets more and more renewed by the word, his mind aligns with his spirit and good works will begin to flow naturally and will be a hood testimony of his new life in Jesus Christ.