Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Earning prosperity and life eternal

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran teaches a life that is very much a life of works where we earn our blessings and prosperity through our works of good and where chastisement and punishment are the wages of our evil works as well. One's outcome in this life, and in the life to come, is determined by their works and deeds performed in this life while on the Earth.
"who do deeds of righteousness [the thing that are right], that theirs shall be a great wage [reward]" (Koran 17:10)
"Surely those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness [the things that are right] -- surely We leave not to waste the wage [rewards] of him who does good works;" (Koran 18:29)
While I am not an Arabic scholar, it appears form the various translations of the Koran that I have read that the terms of "reward" and "wage" are often used interchangeably. This is similar to Paul's use of these two words when he wrote, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41) Here the word "reward" in the Greek could have just as easily been translated "wages."

A person's wages of prosperity or chastisement do not flow from parents or grandparents but are the direct result of what we do, not what someone else has done.
"that is the recompense [reward] of the self-purified [him who hath been pure]." (Koran 20:78)
We are the one's who must purify ourselves; we are the ones who must work good works that we might reap their benefits. These benefits do not reap good for this life alone, but we earn our peculiar state in the life to come by our works here and now. Our future is purchased by our works today.
"And thou shalt see the sinners that day coupled [linked together] in fetters, of pitch their shirts [garments of pitch], their faces enveloped by the Fire, that God may recompense every soul for its earnings [as it deserveths]; surely God is swift at the reckoning." (Koran 14:50-51)
Paradise is something that someone earns, it is not a gift or a promise made without constraints and requirements. It is a possession that is fully dependent upon our works in this life, be they good or evil. Our future life is decided by the balances of justice. If our good outweighs our bad, then we are reward with good things. However, if our bad outweighs our good, then evil things are the wages of our life.
"The weighing that day is true [with justice]; he whose scales are heavy -- they are the prosperers [shall be happy], and he whose scales are light -- they have lost their soul for wronging Our signs." (Koran 7:7-8)
"Whosoever comes [presents himself] with a good deed [works], he shall have better than it [shall be a reward beyond their deserts]; and they shall be secure from terror that day. And whosoever comes [presents themselves] with an evil deed, [they shall be flung downward on] their faces shall be thrust into the Fire: 'Are you recompensed [rewarded] but for what you did?" (Koran 27:91-92)
For Muslims, their only hope of prosperity in this life, and Paradise in the next life, is to live in such a way that, in the end, your good outweighs your bad. There is no grace, there is no providence, there is just working and the receiving of wages.
"And whosoever does a righteous deed [what is right], be it male or female, believing, We shall assuredly give [quicken] him to live a goodly [happy] life; and We shall recompense them their wage, according to the best of what they did [best deeds]." (Koran 16:99)
In fact, the only way to expunge ourselves of past sins is to make up for them with better deeds. The Koran leaves us constantly trying to pay for past sins while still having enough good deeds left over to purchase peace and blessing in the life come.
"Those are they from whom We shall accept the best of what they have done, and We shall pass over their evil deeds." (Koran 46:16)
"If you avoid the heinous sins that are forbidden you, We will acquit you of your evil deeds, and admit you [to enter Paradise] by the gate of honour." (Koran 4:35)
However, all these teachings are contrary to the teachings of Christ and to the Gospel he came to reveal to us. While it is true that there will be degrees of rewards in heaven, our entrance into heaven and the life to come is not purchased by our deeds but granted as grace by God and given to all who believe. "If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:14-15) There will be rewards in heaven, but our salvation, our entrance into heaven, is not determined by our good deeds or the comparative "weight" of our good verses our evils. Our salvation is not based on works or deeds of the flesh, but by the grace of God and our faith in Him. Paul wrote, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." (Romans 4:4-6)

Heaven is not our reward or the just wages of our labors. One cannot earn heaven nor receive it as a reward for his good works. The truth is that we are all sinners and, even if all our good should be laid aside all our bad, we all would be found wanting. Even if we tried, we can never do enough good deeds to outweigh our bad. We are all hopelessly lost, hopelessly sinners, hopelessly condemned. Our only hope is in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24) The Koran teaches us to work real hard and maybe, in the end, we will earn heaven for our reward, Jesus says to stop striving and working and believe and we will receive eternal life both here and now as well as in the life to come.

More to come...
David Robison

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