I do things for all the wrong reasons. I am self serving and motivated by whatever benefits me in the end. – Signed, Everyone
For All the Wrong Reasons
Let’s face it, even the best of us are self absorbed. If we do the right thing, we often do it for the wrong reasons. I realize that is a generalization that isn’t 100% applicable to all situations. But I have been thinking about this today as I have my devotional time.
Let me first clarify what I mean by doing the right thing. The right thing can be helping those in need, when they are in need. The right things can be praying every day. The right thing can be checking in on your elderly neighbor. This list goes on and on. Most people recognize the ‘right thing’ when the opportunity presents itself.
If we can objectively look at our motivations when we do things, we would surely realize how much we need God to change our hearts every day. I should ask myself, “What’s in it for me…” when I preparing to do something. Am I really doing this act out of love? Do I benefit from this? Which one is in my heart when I do the right thing?
Have you ever helped a friend move because you expect them to help you when it’s your turn to move? I have. Have you gotten involved in a ministry just to get closer to someone you are attracted to? I have. Have you fixed a wealthy friend’s computer for free because they have resources you wanted to be able to tap into later? I have. Have you given donations solely for a tax write-off? I have.
Now, let’s be clear. I am in no way suggesting that we avoid doing the right thing if our motivations are wrong. Heaven forbid! The world is a dark enough place. But how much brighter could we make it if we began to channel God’s unfailing, nondiscriminitory love? If it is His love pouring out of us, the glory will be His and not ours. This should be evident when these ‘right thing’ events happen and God is allowed to work without our ulterior motives.
Before I get into Godly motivation, I want to point out that this writing (like all of my writing) is pointing the finger at myself. I like to write when God is dealing with me so that I can reference it later and see if I’ve made any progress. Hopefully, He speaks to you through my life failures… believe me, the failures are plentiful.
We are all very familiar with the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. I will include it here for your convenience.
1Cr 13:1 NASB – If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Cr 13:2 NASB – If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
1Cr 13:3 NASB – And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
1Cr 13:4 NASB – Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
1Cr 13:5 NASB – does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
1Cr 13:6 NASB – does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
1Cr 13:7 NASB – bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Cr 13:8 NASB – Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
For many years as a child, my mother tried to install this wisdom in my brothers and I. But I have always had a very strong sense of justice. We get what we deserve. Because of that, I struggled with religiosity and being judgmental. I followed the law and was willing to accept the punishment if I broke it. Therefore, if you fail to follow the law, I expect you to be punished. I had a very small understanding of grace and mercy because I didn’t feel like I was in need of those things. But I was wrong. So wrong.
Those who have been reading my blogs range in age quite a bit. I admit that I find it interesting that there are senior citizens who read here. These seniors have something that I am only just beginning to understand. They have experience. And through that they have wisdom. The ability to see the world and people differently comes from practice. So as I age, I am beginning to notice that I am not always patient or kind… that I act unbecomingly… that I sometimes seek my own… OK… most of the time I seek my own… In short, I am a clanging cymbal.
In my youth, I felt that I didn’t need grace and mercy because I was strict in my morals. Grace and mercy were for bad people. But the good Lord has taken my lifetime so far to show me that even my desires and motivations can throw me squarely on His mercy every day… even when I don’t realize it. And He loves me SO much that He continues to pour out this mercy on me and work in me every single day so that I can learn to be a vessel for Him.
A long time ago, I wrote a blog somewhere called “Love as a First Instinct“. I believe that it is God’s intention that we learn, through practice, to use love as our first instinct. Of course we have no ability to do this in ourselves. This only comes from surrendering our ‘self’ to God and allowing Him to change our hearts. This is not a simple task! Yet it is through this God kind of love that all men will know that we are His disciples… that we have love for one another (John 13:35).
Where Do I Get This Godly Motivation?
So where do we get this Godly motivation? Take a moment to read Romans chapter 5.
Rom 5:1 NASB – Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rom 5:2 NASB – through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Rom 5:3 NASB – And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
Rom 5:4 NASB – and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Rom 5:5 NASB – and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Rom 5:6 NASB – For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Rom 5:7 NASB – For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
Rom 5:8 NASB – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom 5:9 NASB – Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Rom 5:10 NASB – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Rom 5:11 NASB – And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Rom 5:12 NASB – Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–
Rom 5:13 NASB – for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Rom 5:14 NASB – Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Rom 5:15 NASB – But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
Rom 5:16 NASB – The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
Rom 5:17 NASB – For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Rom 5:18 NASB – So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Rom 5:19 NASB – For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Rom 5:20 NASB – The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
Rom 5:21 NASB – so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I read it twice because it simply breaks down my self righteousness and reminds me that I am a walking, talking/typing candidate for a love and grace infusion. He has done all the work and he did it while I was still His enemy… He did it knowing that I would still sin against Him even after coming into my relationship with Him. He did it to demonstrate that all the selfish motives and all the actions I exercise lead me back to His grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it plainly, for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. That means my moral high ground was worthless. I need THE SAME grace as the most wicked person on earth. I had been missing the point all those years.
Since righteousness is a gift from God, it is not something I can build on my own by simply trying to do the ‘right thing’. It’s amazing how that takes ‘self’ out of the picture. Couple that with the other gifts that He has given us and you can begin to see how a new motivation can emerge.
Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. While James 4:8 says to draw near to God and He will draw near to you. The closer we allow Him to be and the more we focus on His love for us, the more we will understand our extreme need for mercy and grace. He has already given it to us but we must foster it daily.
So every day, it is my job to sincerely pray that God develop this gift of righteousness in me. It is my job to meditate on the many gifts He has given to me. It is my job to give thanks to Him for love, mercy, grace, righteousness, hope and the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ that allows me the honor of fellowship with Him. It is my job to foster this relationship with Him and NEVER take any of these gifts for granted. He has already done all the work and I need to renew my mind every single day. As we do this, He will begin to change our motivations. We will find ourselves doing the ‘right thing’ for His reasons as we truly seek to spread this amazing love that has saved us. That’s practice. So let’s try to do this every single day and I have faith that He will keep up his end of the bargain. And what a bargain it is for us!
I want to be a better man. I want to be out of the way when God wants to love on someone through me. I’m not going to lie, when I examine myself, I am filled with that sense of dread you get when you have an impossible amount of work in front of you! But He has met us much more than half way.
Larry Norman said it well in this classic tune, “Righteous Rocker” –