Have you ever done something for someone else from a pure, unadulterated motive, but afterward the thoughts come into your head about the potential benefits that could come your way for having done it? This happened to me recently. At first, I let my mind wander to ponder these potential fringe benefits, but that only served to soil my soul when I realized the wrong-ness of of my thinking.
It really began to bother me that I had taken what was beautiful and spilled my coffee all over it. I wondered whether continuing to serve this individual, as I had begun, would be wrong because I now had mixed motives. Would I be doing it to serve the individual, or would I be doing it in an effort to increase the potential of personal benefit? After all, motive is a powerful indicator of our spiritual maturity.
If I choose to do good hoping to receive back again, my motivation is impure. Jesus said, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV). And again, “If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount…. Expect nothing in return, and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:33-35 ESV).
I faced a moral dilemma. Unsure whether to continue the good work or stop for conscience sake.
I found part of my answer in Philippians 1. Paul addresses an issue of people preaching the gospel from wrong motives. He says, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (vv. 15-18 ESV). Paul seems to be of the opinion that the work reaches past motive. If the work needs doing, and someone will be blessed thereby, then doing it is still a good thing.
As I pondered all of this I believe I heard the voice of the Lord say to me, “Would you still do the work if it cost you something rather than gave you something?” At this point I began to realize that the enemy had been trying to stop the work of the Holy Spirit, Who had led me to act in the first place!
Some people look for excuses for not acting on the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Some only act if increases their stock in the eyes of others. I continue this work that was set before me because it was God who put it there in the first place. I continue because it is not about me, but rather the individual I was sent to bless.
I want to encourage you. When you feel the prompting of God to do something, don’t look for reasons not to obey; but rather look for reasons to act. We only have a short time on this earth. The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. This means that we have a narrow window of time to do the work of God. Do the work. Be a blessing. Do this and you will find that your motives will change.
Live like Jesus and you will love like Jesus.