Adorning* with Good Works

good works

Doing Good – a Service

My nursing supervisor came up the hallway of our unit carrying a bag of dirty laundry. Opening the laundry chute with the key, she heaved the stuffed bag from the floor and aimed for the opening. From the nurses’ station, I heard it swoosh six floors down to ground level.

If shame could color one’s face, mine would have been crimson. My supervisor professed no faith in God. Her lifestyle and her language told me enough about her nonexistent relationship to God. That day, however, she exhibited more “doing good” than I.

I had just walked past that double-laundry holder in the hallway. After all, it was not my job.  There were other things I needed to be doing, and charting was one of them. In just a few minutes, the aides and orderlies would be able to walk out the door while the nurses remained, signing off on patients’ charts. I had every right to withhold my services for something more important, which included the legality of signing off on my work for the day before I left for home. My supervisor was going to stay later than I, but she didn’t give that as an excuse to leave the laundry bags standing in the hall.

God’s Instructions on Service

God has many instructions for how women are to live and to serve. Selfishness is not a part of His will for us, but we often seem to forget that as we try to look out for our ‘rights’.

Many Anabaptist women have heard teaching on modesty and the wearing of jewelry. Perhaps what we’re lacking is teaching about the “ornaments of good works.”

In I Timothy 2, Paul writes with instructions for women:

I would have the women dress becomingly, with modesty and self-control, not with plaited hair or gold or pearls or costly clothes, but—as befits women making a claim to godliness—with the ornament of good works. 

Nowhere in scripture are we instructed to be sloppy or uncaring about our appearance. However, we are to focus more on the internal than the external. In this epistle, women are instructed to be dressed modestly and appropriately for the occasion. Modesty means not too much, and not too little. Either one is worldly and will draw attention to oneself, which should not be our goal. When our external appearance occupies our mind and focus, instead of virtues of the heart, we fail.

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The Heart of the Matter

How we dress and how we act reflects our heart. Colossians 1:10 tells us that we are to be fruitful in every good work and to increase in the knowledge of God. Work is action. It is not planning or intending to do something; it is doing.

During Jesus’ last days, a woman came to him and used her expensive perfume to anoint His feet. When people complained, Jesus hushed them. He said, “She has done what she could.”

This woman had a story of sin but Jesus redeemed her, and she wanted to show her love for Him. She didn’t have much to offer, but she did what she could. Her action was a foreshadowing of His death and burial as the perfume filled the entire house.

Was it wasted? No.

Did she do this to show off to others? No.

She wanted to show her love for Jesus; she wanted to show how He had changed her life, so she gave sacrificially and expensively. We should, too.

When we choose to serve others (doing good works), we should be doing it to show Jesus how much He means to us. If I had taken that laundry bag and dragged it up the hall with an attitude of “I’m doing this for You, Jesus, because You have taken my dirty rags and made me whiter than snow”, it would have been the same as what Mary did. That reflection of my heart would have been more powerful than any clothing, cosmetics, or jewelry I could have worn. Forty years later, I don’t remember how my supervisor was dressed or adorned that day, but I cannot forget the reflection of her heart.

Consider examples of women in Scripture. Lydia, known for selling purple, is also known for hosting Paul and his fellow teachers. These men didn’t have a base from which to work, so Lydia did what she could: she provided hospitality. The Shunamite woman talked her husband into building a room on top of their house for Elisha.  In that room, they provided a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp.  Another example is the Proverbs 31 woman (the one to whose standard we can never achieve) stretches out her hands to the poor and needy. Dorcas, whose death caused so much consternation among the people in her community, was full of good works and acts of charity. 

A Legacy of Good Works

When we die, what will people miss most about us? Our title, job, and income? Or, will they miss the good works we do today? In our “works”, we need to look at the person’s actual needs or desires and not at what we want to do or what we would want done if we were in that situation.

Ministering or doing good involves not only meeting physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well. Kind words, encouragement, and getting-in-the-trenches love to needy folks are ways we can do good. Scripture tells us that Jesus “went about doing good.” 

What are the good things Jesus did? Think about where and how He did good: healing, feeding, quieting storms, touching, and blessing children. Jesus reached out to those who were ostracized. He touched the unclean and ate with sinners on their turf. In addition to taking care of physical problems, He restored broken hearts.

Jesus calls us to be like Him. As women, He calls us specifically to be adorned and attired by ornaments of good works.good works

Jesus touched lives. Do we?

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This article was first published in the Homespun edition of Daughters of Promise Magazine. For more information about this magazine, or to get an online or a print subscription, visit here


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