Often people reason, "If the objective [or goal] is reached, what difference does it make why something is done?" As examples, consider some 'ouch' situations.
Example one: You want to clean out your closets or buy new furniture for a room. However, you do not wish to be wasteful. Yet, neither do you want to have a yard sale. So you decide to give the things you do not want to a local organization who will distribute your unwanted things to people in need. Will the organization be helped? Certainly! Will people in need profit from your gift? Certainly! Will you clean out the closets or get rid of the furniture without having a yard sale? Certainly! Was your motive a desire to eliminate unwanted things or helping those in need?
Example two: The year is coming to an end. December is almost over. For tax purposes, you truly need to make a charitable contribution. Within the last two weeks of the year you properly make a charitable donation in the amount your taxes require. Did the charitable organization benefit? Surely! Did the people helped by the charitable organization benefit? Surely! Was your desire to produce a needed tax credit fulfilled? Surely! Was your motive the production of a tax write off or the desire to help people in need?
Certainly the two examples used involve other ethical considerations. A person can want both to eliminate unwanted things and help those in need. A person surely can wait to the end of the year to maximize his or her gift to a charity by also receiving tax consideration. However, if a person wishes to claim his or her righteousness exists because he or she does primarily those acts which benefit his or her purposes, ethically he or she may need to examine his or her motives. Is that not why Jesus told such persons they had "received your reward" in Matthew 6:1-18? Doing something for you is not the same as doing something for God. However, we need to be careful not to judge others' motives! Unless the giver tells us, we likely do not know the 'whys'. The challenge lies in looking at ourselves rather than looking at others.
In today's texts, we will note bad motives can produce bad acts. Such motives can provoke divine opposition. 'Why' we do something is important to us and to God.
Philippians 1:12-18. This is one of Paul's 'prison epistles' meaning it was a letter he wrote to Christians while he was imprisoned. The Christians at Philippi knew Paul was in prison, knew his harsh circumstances, and knew he had enemies seeking to capitalize on his awkward circumstances.
Incredibly, though Paul was in danger, he sought to encourage and comfort the Philippian Christians! Rather than focusing them on his undesirable circumstances, he called their attention to the good being accomplished. Paul existed to spread the gospel [the 'good news' about God's acts in Jesus' death and resurrection]. His imprisonment actually helped achieve his goal! His imprisonment caused Jesus Christ to be discussed in places Jesus Christ otherwise would not be mentioned! Because of Paul's imprisonment, people discussed Jesus that previously never heard of Jesus.
Some spoke of Jesus because they were motivated by love for Paul and Jesus Christ. Some, motivated by envy, wanted to stir up confrontation. The later had bad motives and evil desires. They wanted to increase Paul's anxiety and suffering. However, Paul did not care what motivated them. He found joy in the fact that people talked about Jesus.
In Paul's lifetime, many never had heard the words 'Jesus Christ'. Paul was happy that in prominent circles people made the 'unknown Jesus' the 'known Jesus.' Awareness advanced among the unaware! To Paul, that was wonderful! God used bad motives in an evil situation to make more people aware of Jesus Christ! With that result, Paul said his suffering was insignificant!
James 2:1-4. James wrote to Christians who practiced favoritism. To these Christians, some interested people were more desirable than other interested people. The contrast James gave was between a man wearing fine clothes with a gold ring and a man obviously poorly dressed in dirty clothes. The well dressed man was given a prominent place to sit and the poor man was given an undesirable place to sit [the situation is likely in a home where Christians gathered].
James said to make such distinctions based on the wealth of the person was to show favoritism by becoming judges with evil motives [reasoning]. James continued to explain why such actions were offensive to God.
James 4:1-4. James addressed why the Christians to whom he wrote experienced conflicts among themselves. Those to whom he wrote passionately pursued their physical desires. Their pursuit of desires was so passionate James used the words "lust" and "murder" to describe their determined commitment. He used these words to describe the intensity of their envy, fighting, and quarreling. As was typical of many in their time, they viewed religion as avenue [means] for obtaining their desires. "Win the gods' favor, and achieve your desires."
James said the reason they did not get what they requested was found in the fact they had wrong motives. They were interested in their desires, not God's purposes. He said those Christians were guilty of adultery against God. In a profound way, they were unfaithful in their commitment to God. Obtaining their desires courted the physical interests of this existence, but it ignored God's interest. They forgot or were ignorant of the fact that interests of ungodly forces opposed God's interest. They pursued and asked of God in order to invest in their own pleasures, not in God's concerns for people. Their pursued objectives made them God's enemies.
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 12
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