How Christians think about good works can reveal a lot about how they view Jesus, the law, the Gospel and the kingdom of God. I believe we have not only downplayed good works, but have also too narrowly defined them. For many, offering your guest a Testamint after dinner is a good work because it's a very "Christian" thing that has an immediate evangelistic appeal built in. But The One Campaign, or buying fair trade products looks suspicious because Jesus' name isn't slapped on the side of it. I was reading the Scots Confession today. Check this out,
We confess and acknowledge that God has given to man his holy law... These works are of two kinds. The one is done to the honor of God, the other to the profit of our neighbor, and both have the revealed word of God as their assurance. To have one God, to worship and honor him, to call upon him in all our troubles, to reverence his holy Name, to hear his Word and to believe it, and to share in his holy sacraments, belong to the first kind. To honor father, mother, princes, rulers, and superior powers; to love them, to support them, to obey their orders if they are not contrary to the commands of God, to save the lives of the innocent, to repress tyranny, to defend the oppressed, to keep our bodies clean and holy, to live in soberness and temperance, to deal justly with all men in word and deed, and, finally, to repress any desire to harm our neighbor, are the good works of the second kind, and these are most pleasing and acceptable to God as he has commanded them himself. From the Scots Confession, Article 14 (emphasis mine)
Not everything in the reformed tradition is admirable, but so much of our heritage and theology beautifully reflects the heart and will of God. Wherever we are we probably need a bigger, more biblically wholistic view of good works.