Why We Do What We Do

Sometimes the motives behind our actions are a lot trickier to pinpoint and define that we might think. Certain actions carry obvious intentions and motives. But so much of what we do is  masked by pseudo intentions. The argument has for centuries been made that motives don’t matter, as long as we do what we ought to do. Certainly the Pharisees of Jesus’ day ascribed to a version of this philosophy. That is why they so carefully followed every rule and made sure everyone saw them doing it. They were concerned with behavior. They found success in DOING the right thing. The deceptive nature of this claim is that it contains an element of the truth. Indeed we are called to do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it. And often what we do,  at least in the physical world, carries more immediate consequences and ramifications.
But Jesus taught a more holistic approach to the issue of actions and motives. He called the religious leaders to task for requiring so many actions but not considering motives.  Jesus told his audience, “You  know the law says not to murder, but do you know that when you hate someone you are guilty of murder?” Clearly His message was that actions are not the only thing that matters. What we do is only part of the story. What we think, what we hide, what we plan, and even what we talk about–those are the true markers of our heart. Many times in the gospel accounts the author give us a bit of inside information, saying, “But Jesus knew what they were thinking.” The people who surrounded Jesus nonstop during His earthly ministry were often exposed as frauds, because Jesus knew what their secret thoughts and intentions were. He did not deal merely with their words or actions. Rather, He went right to the heart of the issue.
The truth Jesus taught is that what we do matters, but what motivates us also matters, sometimes more than we will ever know.  When we are motivated to do the right thing, not out of a personal desire, but because we know God would want us to submit to His direction in our life, this is an obedience of heart and action. When we do what we do because we enjoy doing it, and it is glorifying to God, this also is a holistic form of obedience.  Where we tend towards trouble is when we do what we do that others might think more highly of us, or because it gratifies our inner self. And of course there is the pitfall of doing what we do because we want to and we don’t care what God or anyone else thinks.
Can we do what we do out of pure motives? Out of a longing to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? Not without the sustaining power of the Spirit within us. That is why Christ said, “Without me you can do nothing.” NOTHING! That means without Christ’s work in us, we will never blend actions and motives in a way that carries eternal weight. But, when we submit to Christ, the blend of motives and actions flows purely as rivers of living water to the glory of God and our own great enjoyment of Him.

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