Was Mother Teresa Saved?

Mention of Mother Teresa comes in regard to the following thoughtful comment in response to a previous post dealing with God’s hostility toward the wicked:

I wonder if Mother Teresa was a born again Christian.  The whole world thinks of her as one of the greatest selfless woman that ever lived.  So if she wasn’t born again, I guess all her acts of kindness were for selfish reasons, and God hates her.

This comment raises several issues. First, the question of whether it could be possible that the opinion of the whole world regarding Mother Teresa’s selfless service could be wrong. Scripture leaves this open as a possibility. In 1Corinthians 13:3 Paul speaks of such a person in saying, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

I am not suggesting this was the case with Mother Teresa, but some have taken that position. Again, let me emphasize that this is not my position, but one can see how this might be possible. Apart from her work in India Mother Teresa would have been an unknown nun, but as a result of her ministry to the poor she has gained world renown for possessing the noblest character and performing the most loving ministry one could attribute to a human being. For some people achieving such recognition would be worth any sacrifice. However, this would make her a fraud. I believe that evidence exists to suggest otherwise, though only God knows her heart.

However, the question takes us to a deeper issue. Scripture teaches that we cannot be saved by our good works, but instead, because we are sinners under that judgment of God we can only be saved through the righteousness of Christ. This scriptural truth has led some to believe that many really good people will not be saved because they are trusting in their good works to save them. In the comment above we find Mother Teresa, viewed to be one of the most selfless people who ever lived, yet suggesting that she might not be saved. This position connotes that no connection exists between selflessness and salvation. Is it possible that Mother Teresa could have been one of the most selfless people who ever lived and yet lost because she was trusting in her works to save her?

We gain insight from biblical examples of those seeking to be saved by their works. The first was Cain, who offered no sacrifice but only produce, signifying that he needed no redemption but was good enough to stand before God on his own merit. As the story unfolds we find that he was a murderer and impudent in his attitude toward God. He was not a good person. The Pharisees provide another example of those seeking to stand before God based on their goodness. Christ exposed their immorality on many counts, e.g. they were covetous, even to the point of twisting the law to steal from their own parents. The point is that invariably those seeking to be saved by their works are not fine specimens of humanity but some of the worse.  They are not selfless but self-serving.

Foundational to the wickedness of these people is their refusal to acknowledge their own sinfulness. If they were honest they could not escape the reality that they were not good enough to get to heaven on their own merit. Therefore, they are living a lie, and their self-righteousness comprises a pretense that they must support through hypocrisy. This is not selflessness but selfishness of the worst order.

Jesus said,

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21 NKJV)”

So we see that honest and selfless people embrace the truth about themselves and Christ as the Holy Spirit reveals it to them.

If Mother Teresa was truly selfless, she would have acknowledged that she needed the sacrifice of Jesus to save her, and all of her service would have been offered in response to that sacrifice.  At least some evidence exists indicating her dependence on Christ for her salvation and that her service was in gratitude to Him. By the standards of most evangelicals this would mean that she was born again, that her selflessness led her to believe in Jesus and to serve Him.

However, other factors have caused some to question the genuineness of Mother Teresa’s faith. I plan to discuss them in the next post.

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