Recently a person asked me a few simple questions: Why do you pray? Why do you attend church services on Sundays? Why do you give 10% of your income to God’s work? Why do you read the Bible? WHY questions and others like these get to the root of our rationale and reveal the motivations behind our actions.
There are a plethora of motivations and it’s not always easy to pin-point the driving force behind any given act. It’s simple to ask the question but more difficult to discover the accurate answer.
We do things out of guilt, pleasure, fear, need or a sense of responsibility, to mention a few. For many in our culture, money is a powerful motivation, which causes them to do things they wouldn’t do if there were no monetary incentives. Some motivations are wrong and others are right but all of them are significant.
When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, which is recorded in Matt chapters 5-7, He talked about the motivations behind giving, praying and other religious activity. The major nerve Jesus is touching, the general theme, the overall intent of this passage is to focus on the motivations that drive people to do what they do. The religious leaders of that day were doing the right things for the wrong reasons and that matters to God!
Jesus starts by saying this: Matt. 6:1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” He addresses one of the core motivating forces behind much of what we do. Applause and approval from people! We too often want to impress people rather than please God.
I have received applause from people at times but I never want to seek their applause. People see my good deeds occasionally but I never want to do good deeds to be seen by them. I pray in public settings on occasion when invited to do an invocation but I always want to pray ‘to’ God rather than ‘for’ people. If not, I am among those Jesus addresses in this great sermon.
Since that encounter with the person who asked those questions, I’ve noticed some wrong motives in me. One of them surfaced a few weeks ago when I went to a local coffee shop and noticed a ‘tip’ jar located next to the cash register. I started to leave a tip but consciously chose to wait until the Barista was looking. I didn’t want to leave something unless she saw what I was doing. I mean; if she doesn’t see me giving her a tip, how will she know I’m a nice guy? How sick is that? Lol!
The desire to impress people is difficult to see but it resides in all of us. It starts early in life when we become conscious of what others think about how we dress or how we talk. Even my 6-year-old grandson tells me he doesn’t want to wear certain clothes because others will think he doesn’t look cool. He wants to impress people!
Motives are extremely important to God. From His view, your acts will never rise above the motives that inspire them. Even our court system judges differently when the act is pre-meditated or if it were an accident.
Why do you do whatever you do? Finding the answers to the ‘why questions’ of life will help you greatly. Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”