Today’s guest
blogger is 
Susan Verstraete. Susan is a
children’s Sunday school teacher and leader of a book
discussion group at 
Faith Community
 in Kansas City, North, where
she also serves as church secretary. Susan and her husband Michael have two adult
sons, Patrick and Christopher. Susan’s book, Your
People: Stories from Church History is
available from Amazon. Find more articles by Susan at
 www.susansbookgroup.comThis post appears
with the permission of the author. 
In Corrie ten Boom’s famous biography, The Hiding Place, she
tells the story of her Tante (Aunt) Jans, a stern, commanding woman who lived
with the ten Booms in their family home. Everything about Tante Jans was
no-nonsense. She dressed in black from head to toe in a style that hadn’t
changed for decades. Her days were devoted to good works, from early morning to
late at night. She even slept in her little office to make the best use of
every spare moment. Tante Jans was known all over Holland and involved in dozens
of projects—writing, speaking, forming clubs and directing charitable efforts
in the name of Christ.
Tante Jans did not slow down when she received the news that
she was seriously ill. In fact, the fear of death seemed to drive her to
heightened levels of activity. But at last the family received test results
which indicated that Tante Jans had only about three weeks left to live.
The ten Boom family held a meeting to decide how to tell
Tante Jans the bad news. Corrie’s description of what happened next follows:
“We will
tell her together,” Father decided, “though I will speak the necessary words.
And perhaps . . . she will take heart from all she has accomplished. She puts
great store on accomplishment, Jans does, and who knows but that she is right!”
And so the
little procession filed up the steps to Tante Jan’s rooms. “Come in,” she
called to Father’s knock, and added as she always did, “and close the door
before I catch my death of drafts.”
. . . “My
dear sister-in-law,” Father began gently, “there is a joyous journey which each
of God’s children sooner or later sets out on. And, Jans, some must go to their
Father empty-handed, but you will run to Him with hands full!”
“All your
clubs . . . ,” Tante Anna ventured.
writings . . . ,” Mama added.
“The funds
you’ve raised . . . ,”said Betsie.
“Your talks
. . . ,” I began.
But our
well-meant words were useless. In front of us the proud face crumpled; Tante
Jans put her hands over her eyes and began to cry. “Empty, empty!” she choked
at last through her tears. “How can we bring anything to God? What does He care
for our little tricks and trinkets?”
And then as
we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing
down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty
hands. I thank You that You have done all—all—on the cross, and that all we
need in life or death is to be sure of this.[i]
The bad news about Jans’ health wasn’t the tragedy in this
story. What broke her heart was the realization that her family saw her hard
work and acted as if she was counting on it to earn favor with God. Her works
had somehow preached a Gospel of human effort that she didn’t believe.
I wonder (from the little that we know about Tante Jans) if
her stoic personality and seeming lack of mercy and gentleness might have
contributed to the family misunderstanding the motivation for her
works. And I can imagine that she sometimes got so caught up in the work
that it took on a life of its own—snowballing until she might not have
consciously remembered why she began serving in the first place.
What are your good works communicating? We may not get the
chance to correct misconceptions in the way that Tante Jans did. So let’s be
mindful as we work to keep pointing people back to the One who prepared the
works for us to do (Eph. 2:10), who gives us the strength to labor (I Pet.
4:11)  and who set the example of humble service to others (Phil. 2:5-8).
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is
not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no
one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good
works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph.

[i] Ten Boom,
Corrie, The
Hiding Place,
(1992, Crossings Classics) pg.

Copyright © 2011 Susan Verstraete