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It Doesn't Make Sense - Living in a Meritocratic Society and Believing That Salvation is by Grace Through Faith

Updated on May 4, 2012

I grew up on the mantra that I had to work hard and work hard and work hard... that was the key to success in life - hard work.

However, at the same time, as a Christian, I knew that my salvation was given to me by God's grace, there was nothing that I had done to deserve it. All that I could do after confessing my need as a sinner for God was to accept with deep gratitude that God had taken away my sins from me, and had given me the gift of eternal salvation.

As I grow older, the disjunction between working hard and salvation began to hit me. I realized that I was beginning to apply my ethic of hard work into all areas of my life, including my salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

In a meritocratic society that puts so much emphasis on hard work and personal effort, what happens is that we think that self-effort is all we need to get ourselves anywhere. In reality, there are other social conditions that need to play out - such as having the right social connections (what sociologists would consider social capita) and networks to get where you are.

However, in the case of our salvation - this is not true. In the Bible, we read that God has chosen us to be His children. None of us deserve to be saved, and being able to experience God's gift of eternal life is really an act of grace that God has extended to us.

In a meritocratic society, with a meritocratic mindset, some of the ways that we might have been tempted to earn or qualify ourselves to be children of God could be through

  • working too hard - if I am a hard worker, God will reward my effort. God will reward the Christians who work harder more than the lazy ones. My hard work earns me the right to be saved. Well, this is not what the Bible says.
  • serving too much in church - some people are in church serving for the wrong reasons. They think that if they serve a certain number of hours, that would qualify them to be saved, or maintain their status as good Christians. Again, not what the Bible says.
  • doing good deeds - if I do enough good deeds, God will notice me and reward me and upgrade my holy-status. Unfortunately, this is not what the Bible says.

You could probably add to the list - the many things that people do to quell their salvation anxiety. These things in themselves are not bad. In fact, it is very admirable to desire to serve God and help others....


BUT all of our service and good deeds to others should be flow from a desire to please God and express our gratitude and love from Him, NOT as a means to achieve more or better salvation.

Yes, all our actions and hard work should be an outflow from the salvation that we have received, as our service is not a means to produce salvation, but it is a natural product of having received salvation.

Isn't it wonderful to think about - that as Christians, we are secure in Jesus who loves us? Nothing that we could do could have enabled us to earn salvation, as our righteousness is compared to filthy rags against God's radiant holiness.

In a culture that focus so much on meritocracy and the entitlement that flows from it, we must always remember that as Christians, we live according to a different standard, for a greater purpose and for a higher power - Jesus Christ.


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    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Great food for thought here Charlotte B Plum. Indeed we should work hard because the Kingdom needs us to bring Jesus to so many. Hard and good works will certainly not bring us into fellowship with God or to salvation. The whole through Grace thing teaches that. Sadly, many fall into the training the world has instilled. This is a very important article. It should help a lot of people.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      There are people who believe that doing good works alone will get them into heaven. And, I do see how some people would believe that working hard at salvation through good works would merit the award. However, your statement "BUT all of our service and good deeds to others should be flow from a desire to please God and express our gratitude and love from Him" is the correct thoughts on this. We must do it because it is our desire to do so, in accordance to His will. Thanks for sharing.

    • Charlotte B Plum profile imageAUTHOR

      Charlotte B Plum 

      6 years ago

      Hi dahoglund!

      Yes, I do agree with you! I don't think it please God when we neglect our family responsibilities, even in the name of ministry or service.

      Thank you for dropping by and for sharing your thoughts. I am very appreciative!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I think it sort of comes down to balance in our lives. There is nothing wrong with working hard to gain materially but it should not be at the expense of our spiritual life. Likewise we have a duty to family and community so the idea of faith should not be at the expense of our other responsibilities. We cannot necessarily win god's favor by hard work, but we could lose it by neglecting our responsibilities.


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