Objective of this lesson: to stress both behavior and the motive for the behavior is important to us, to God, and to society.
"What" a person does for you is important. "Why" a person does something for you is equally important. We regard a person to be extremely naive if he or she is not concerned about "why" when a kindness is extended. We often look for "strings that are attached" when an unexpected kindness is extended to us. In fact, we are so skeptical of unexpected kindness that we immediately search for "the strings attached." We are skeptical about anyone who does a kindness for our benefit for no reason.
When someone extends you a kindness, one of the immediate questions that quickly comes to your mind is, "Why are you doing this for me?"
God knows "why" we do things. He is never deceived about our motives. Our motives may deceive other people. They may even deceive us about our actual reasons. It is possible for us to be so deceived about our motives that we cannot explain our principle motivation.
God knows our true motive even when we are not honest with ourselves. We can deceive both other people and ourselves, but we cannot deceive God (consider Galatians 6:7, 8).
Surely, we do something for a reason. God is never deceived about our real reason--even when we are successful in deceiving ourselves!
When we act, there is always a reason--even if we do not know or understand the reason.
With God, "what" you do is important. With God, "why" you do it is equally important. In our interaction with people, we are easily deceptive about our "real" motive (yes, most of us make distinctions between verbalized motives and actual motives). Too many times verbalized motives are deliberately deceptive. The "why" we give for doing something may or may not be true.
Stress God knows the true or real "why" that we behave as we do. Understanding ourselves is not for the purpose of blaming others [which achieves little or nothing], but to release us from the control of forces within us that we may not understand.
Certainly there are multiple "whys" for most acts or actions. To cite a single "why" may not be an attempt to deceive, but a serious attempt to choose the primary, relevant "why" for the situation. To cite a specific reason when many reasons exist is not necessarily an attempt to deceive. Quite the opposite! Often it is an attempt to be truthfully direct!
If the principle motivation is revealed or acknowledged, usually the person is not attempting to be deceptive.
However, there are people who use deceptive "whys." The deceit may not to be found in the "why" stated, but in the motive behind that "why." That person may give us one reason for the "why" prompting the act. Yet, the reason he or she gives is not at all the primary reason. Instead, it is a deliberate attempt to deceive. The deception seeks to take advantage of the person or persons. The declared motive of the deceiver and the actual motive of the deceiver are two different motives. Often the declared motive focuses unselfishly on your benefit. However, the actual motive focuses on the deceiver's benefit with little or no regard for you.
Often deception is more rooted in motives than in behavior. Commonly in deception, great effort is devoted to hiding the motive as the deceiver magnifies his or her behavior.
There are two truths about God we always should find sobering. (1) God cannot be deceived (Galatians 6:7,8; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:33, 34; James 1:16, 17; 1 John 3:7, 8); (2) God knows our true motives--even when we succeed in deceiving ourselves! People can deceive themselves [as well as others], but people never deceive God.
Stress that God cannot be deceived, and God knows the true motives of humans. A conviction that we can deceive God and hide our true motives from Him is frequently the beginning of self-deception.
With God, "why" a person does something is of equal importance to "what" a person does. God will not only judge deeds ["whats"] but He will pass judgment on "whats" by considering "whys." The person who knows the right thing to do and refuses to do what he or she realizes sins against God (James 4:17; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 2 Timothy 2:21-26). Were it not for God's grace, none of us could endure His scrutiny!
The rest of this series of lessons will be devoted to noting the importance of our motives to God. Hopefully these lessons will intensify our respect and appreciation for God by reminding us of His kindness toward our imperfections. To think we can deceive God is an insult to Him. To seek to dedicate ourselves to the holy is deeply appreciated by God.
At some point, the church concluded that if a person did "the right thing," his or her motivation for doing "the right thing" were not relevant to his or her behavior. That concept does not even work in human relationships! Do the "right thing" for the "wrong reason" in your relationship with your husband or wife, and the behavior is deeply resented because the motive is "wrong!" How resented? Enough to destroy the relationship! Do "the right thing" for the "wrong reason" with your teen children, and they will deeply resent and distrust you! Do the "right thing" for the "wrong reason" in your relationship with a close friend. He or she likely will never trust you again! Likely you will quickly descend from the status of "good friend" to "distrusted acquaintance." We only deceive ourselves if we conclude that our motives in doing God's "right things" do not matter!
Religiously [through the ages until now] people easily are convinced that God so quickly reacts with appreciation to "doing the right thing" that He does not concern Himself with the "whys" of a human act if the behavior is "the right thing." As an example, consider the typical concern for the act of baptism. There often is great concern for the baptism of people, but little concern for why people are consenting to baptism. The point is NOT baptism is unimportant, but the point is that God is as concerned with the why for the act as with yielding to the act.
In the restoration movement in the United States of American, we place enormous emphasis on doing the right thing. In generations past it was understood that right things were to be done for right reasons. At some point in the early 1900s, the understanding that right things had to be done for right reasons became a less common understanding. Emphasis began to shift toward doing right things without regard to appropriate reasons. As an example, in the 1800s brothers of completely different understandings commonly regarded each other as brothers. "Not the only Christians, but Christians only" was one of the early restoration statements. However, in the 1900s people increasingly found themselves in disagreement on what was stated to be "essential issues." Increasingly such people refused to regard themselves in fellowship as they rejected each other as brothers in Christ. People went from the extremes of the position of "we are discovering truth" to the extremes of the position of "we found complete truth and defend it." Dedication to discovery of truth was no longer permitted. The restoration position shifted continually toward defending the truth.
Most of us are quite familiar with a dedication to defending the truth. We are less familiar with the concern in the early stages of restoration movement to search for truth. Unfortunately, many in the movement stopped searching for truth when they began defending positions.
As an example of this shift, the thrust of the restoration movement in America [within many in the Churches of Christ] shifted from "discovering truth" to "defending truth." The American restoration movement in Churches of Christ declared for decades that those who sought to be Christians should seek truth. Yet, increasingly, the American restoration movement in Churches of Christ adopted the cry, "We must defend the truth." With the first thrust, full truth was yet to be discovered. With the second thrust, full truth was fully discovered and needed only to be defended. The first thrust in its most flexible expressions produced inquiring minds open to new discovery in scripture. The second thrust in its most inflexible expressions produced closed minds that defended only past discoveries.
Again, most are familiar with these two thrusts. To many, it "stands to reason" the early part of the restoration movement would be dedicated to "discovering truth" and at some point would come a shift to "defending truth." Such a shift in thrusts is based on the assumption that at some point full truth was discovered, there were no mistakes in the discovery, and there is nothing else to be understood. Can search and defense coexist side by side? Can better understandings prevail? Can mistakes or flaws be acknowledged? Must we lose credibility by defending the indefensible?
Presently the American restoration movement in Churches of Christ seems to seek an emerging third thrust. This thrust basically seems to have little awareness of the background concerns of the first two thrusts. By and large, it seems to function with little awareness of past restoration roots or allegiance to past restoration roots.
This is an evolving thrust that dares to ask questions and acknowledge flaws. Sometimes its commitment clothes itself in an "against the past" posture. Sometimes its commitment clothes itself in an "acknowledgment of flaws" posture. Sometimes its commitment clothes itself in a "devotion to God rather than a movement" posture. Often in this third thrust there is a heightened awareness of the importance of motives to God, especially in concerns for obedience.
The pendulum in Churches of Christ seems to be swinging away from basic nineteenth century restoration issues and concerns. Increasingly, there are clashes within the church between Christians who approve of this swing and Christians who oppose this swing. In the clash, the collision seems to fall between motives and forms. In this clash, some suggest that motives are of little relevance. Yet, scripture declares motives are as critical as forms. The key is to be found in what is and is not a godly motive.
There are those who regard concern for motives as [at best] a compromise of the real objectives of defending truth. There are those who regard motives as essential to practicing truth. Both sides likely are in more agreement than they care to see. If we are not very careful, both sides in their determination to be unique become irrelevant to God's purpose and to those who seek God's ways. Rarely are God's purposes found in the positions of human extremes.
For Thought and Sharing
The explanation should include the awareness that we determine motives as we evaluate our responses to kindness offered.
The explanation should include the awareness that God is as concerned about motives as we are.
The explanation should include the awareness that congregations attach such significance to motives in human behavior that Christians often attribute one or more motives when the motive or motives are not clearly evident.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 1
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