And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14
Physicians are compensated under different models, with some paid hourly while others are on a set salary. Yet others are paid by production. With the production model, when a physician is hired, he (or she) usually has a guaranteed income for the first year, but after that, the physician is paid based on how much he does. If he works hard, seeing a lot of patients, he makes more. If he sees fewer patients, he makes less. That first year is a grace period, understood to be a time of practice building. After that however, it’s also understood that the physician will work hard, be productive, and generate an income for himself. It’s just expected that a physician will do what a physician is meant to do – be productive by caring for patients. If he would refuse to produce and not see patients, one would have to question his commitment to being a physician.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but this is similar to our duty as followers of Christ. In today’s passage, Paul once again insisted that Christians must be fruitful, doing good works. Paul always taught that we’re saved by faith, not by what we do. But he also taught that we’re saved to do good works. In response to God saving us from ourselves, we must abandon our way to follow his. Our salvation is by grace, a free gift from God, but if we truly have faith, our behavior will necessarily be transformed. It’s just expected that a Christian will act like a Christian – being productive by doing good works. If our behavior never changes, and if we never become productive for God, one may well question our faith.
There are inherent traps here. We may try to do good for the wrong reasons. We may do good works so that others notice. We may try to do good just to check some spiritual box. Or we may try to do good to earn God’s love and approval.
God loves us – period. We can’t earn his love or salvation. He saves us from ourselves for a relationship with him. In that relationship though, as our love for him grows, we’re meant to follow him, accomplishing his will. In doing so, our lives will produce fruit for the kingdom of God. Those good works may be big or small. The point isn’t to impress others. The goal is to be who God made us to be. A true follower of Christ will, by definition, be fruitful in some way.