All religions encourage doing good deeds. It is considered as the way to earn moksha or salvation. But can good deeds guarantee you a place in heaven? Will it save your soul from eternal punishment ?
A religious person may argue, “God will take into account my good deeds. I fast, I pray so many times a day, I give money to the poor and help the needy. Surely, God will weigh up my merits on the last day.”
The general thinking among religious people is that God will weigh a person’s good deeds against his bad deeds to decide whether he will receive heaven or hell. Well, that may sound very reasonable. But it raises many questions to a thinking mind.
God’s Standard to Judge An Act As Good
Is ability of the doer a criterion? Is opportunity a criterion? What about motivation? What about a person’s sitz-im-laben? What about a person’s intellectual, emotional and volitional capacities?
Think of an example.
A billionaire gives away a million rupees to an orphanage for building construction! However, he keeps 99 million rupees to himself in a country where the per capita income is less than 30,000 rupees! Has he made any sacrifice in giving? Say, this donor desires that the main building of the orphanage to be named after him. Is that a bad desire? Say, the man spends 20,000 rupees to advertise his charitable act in a newspaper! Do these things make his act a bad one?
Many of our good deeds will not be acceptable to the all-knowing God, when evaluated according to His divine standards, because it does not bring honor to God.
Good Works Cannot Erase Sin
Many people think that God will weigh their good deeds against their bad deeds to decide whether he will receive heaven or hell.
But can good deeds erase your past guilt? Or will your past good deeds erase your present sin?
A life-guard saves 10 children who were drowning in the sea. However, few days later he had a quarrel with a young man and drowns him in the water. Could this life-guard be declared ‘not guilty’ on the basis of his saving the 10 children?
Take another example. A farmer who planted one hundred banana plants, after careful planting, fertilizing, weeding, watering, etc., harvest one hundred healthy bunches of banana. He gives away all 100 bunches to the poor people. Next year again he plants 100 intending to give away them to poor people. But a storm destroys them all. He ended up stealing just one bunch of banana from a neighbor and is caught. The neighbor takes him to court. He pleads of his benevolent charity the year before and claims exemption from punishment. Will the court accept his plea?
All will agree that good deeds against bad deeds are not weighed to decide whether a person will get jail or freedom! If fellow human beings with same passions won’t accept such rules, how will a totally holy God accept them?
Good Works Cannot Change What You Are
There is no man who does only good in life.
How many sinful thoughts, words and acts are daily committed even by the so-called ‘good people’? How can they be good?
Now, what about those who do not have the ability or the opportunity to do good? Will they be excused?
Man is born with a sinful nature and therefore he is a sinner. Just like a cobra is born with venom, man is born with sinful disposition. Evil thoughts (even in children), habit of lying, fighting, cheating, etc., are due to the sinful nature. No parents teach their little children to lie or to cheat or to fight. Sin separates man from God. Sin is a wall between man and the holy God. This wall cannot be broken down by doing good deeds, as good deeds do not bring any change to our sinful nature.