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Motive Matters to God

God isn't looking at what we do for Him or others as much as He is looking at our motive and attitude behind those deeds. Our motive will determine our reward, not the deed itself.
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source:

"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." [Jer 17:10].

Several years ago, I read a book written by a rabbi concerning the giving of what we have to God or to others. In the book, he taught that God will still reward you even if you give something or do something for another person and your heart isn’t in it. According to him, what matters to God is that you give; motive counts for nothing and will not even be considered when the time comes to be rewarded in Heaven. We are to give because God commands it; not because we may want to. Our feelings and attitude count for nothing. Come again, rabbi?

This particular rabbi’s teaching directly contradicts that which the Spirit of God teaches us through the prophet Jeremiah. In the above verse of Scripture, we learn that God isn’t looking so much at what we do for others as much as He is our motives behind those deeds. Our motive is the thing that will determine whether we will be rewarded by the Lord or not, and not necessarily the deed itself.

Notice what Jeremiah does not say. He does not say, "I the Lord will reward a man according to his conduct and his deeds....." If this was all that was written, then our rabbi friend would be correct in his teaching. But what does God say? He says, "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind to reward a man according to His conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." In other words, before the Lord examines our ‘good deeds and random acts of love and kindness,’ He first searches our hearts and minds in order to examine our motive behind those deeds and acts. If the motive isn’t right, we can expect no reward from Him.

Why do we do the things that we do? Is it for Him or for ourselves? Do we give our time, talent, and treasure out to others so that we can feel good about ourselves? Do we do these things in order to impress others or because we feel pressured and obligated to do them even though our heart really isn’t in the giving? We need to consider these issues, brothers and sisters, because our motive and attitude matters to God. If the motive or attitude is wrong, then the deed has been performed in vain, and it will be as if we never carried it out in the first place.

Can you imagine devoting your entire life to a specific cause or ministry only to appear before Christ empty handed because your motive or attitude in carrying out that ministry was wrong? In eternity, everything we did for self will be abolished. Only what we did for love of Christ will remain.

When we give, we must learn to see ourselves as doing these things to Jesus and for love of Him. This is the only motive that will be rewarded by God in Heaven.

In the days when Jesus walked the earth, He clearly warned us about doing what we do with wrong motives. "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." [Mt 6:1]. This principle applies not only to fasting, prayer, and giving, but to anything we may do in this life.

When I was in the eighth grade, I remember the pastor of our church standing behind the pulpit and asking the people of my parish to give generously to a certain cause that the church was pushing. Each week the church bulletin would include a list of parishioners and the amount they gave to the cause. Talk about pressure! Some families were able to give $500.00, while some could only afford $25.00. Perhaps some parishioners gave, not because they really wanted to, but because they would have been ashamed and humiliated if other parishioners saw their names omitted from the list. Perhaps there were parishioners who gave large amounts, not because they really wanted to, but because they wanted the rest of the church to be impressed with the large amount typed next to their names. When they walked into the church, they wanted people to be able to point them out and say, "There’s the family who gave $500.00 or $300.00."   If this was the case, according to Jesus, they have already received their reward. Their reward was the recognition of their giving by the other parishioners. Jesus clearly taught that our giving is to be done in secret if we want to be rewarded by God.

Because of the Bible’s teachings on giving with wrong motives, I’ve always been against any public display of people’s giving. I have a real problem with plaques hanging on church walls bearing the names of wealthy parishioners who have given huge amounts of money to the church. According to Jesus, those whose names are engraved on those plaques have already received their reward. When someone has generously donated something to the Church, whether it be money, decorative art, furniture, etc., I cringe in my spirit when I see their name engraved beneath the gift. Whenever I see this, I see men and women who have already received their reward.

Jesus wants us to be anonymous in our giving so that our motive in doing so will be pure. But when we go down the path of published lists, public announcements, and church plaques, we can fully expect pride to rear its ugly head and defile our offering to God.

While we’re on the subject of giving, let’s take a look at our motives and attitudes when giving ourselves in ministry to others. Are we singing in the church choir because Jesus gave us a singing gift and we truly desire to glorify Him with that gift? Or are we singing because we feel important when standing up in front of the entire congregation and enjoy being seen by others? Are we serving as ushers, lectors, or Eucharistic ministers because it makes us feel important among men and gives us a brief moment in the church limelight? Or are we doing these things because we love Jesus and want to do whatever is necessary to help His Church? Are we teaching God’s Word to others because we love to feel authoritative and to impress people with our Bible knowledge? Or are we teaching because we love the Lord and His people so much that we want to share with them everything and anything that will help them in their walk with Christ?

People who have what I term ‘high profile’ ministries need to be extremely careful. Notice that I use the term ‘high profile’ and not ‘high value,’ for no ministry is of greater value than the others. When we stand before the Lord to be rewarded for our service to Him, we will be rewarded according to our faithfulness to Him in that ministry, not the results of it or how many people we were able to reach through it. But people who have ‘high profile’ ministries face a lot more temptation to cave in to wrong motives than those who do not. What do I mean by ‘high profile’ ministries? Church leaders. Authors. Musicians. People with television ministries. You get my drift, I’m sure.

For those who serve the Lord in these types of ministry, it is very easy to abandon the role of servant in order to become a celebrity before men. Once you become a celebrity before men, it is very difficult to return to the role of a servant or to even see yourself as one.

The American church has too many celebrities in it and not enough genuine servants. Those who abandon the simple role of servant in order to become celebrities before men have received their reward. People who become wealthy because they have capitalized on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and peddled God’s Word for financial gain, and who enjoy movie star celebrity status because of their television ministries have already received their reward. Of this I am convinced.

We need to return to what Christ has taught about giving and serving. We need to follow His example, and not the world’s example of serving. The world ‘serves’ in order to be seen by men, but the Christian is to serve in order to be seen by God.

This is a touchy subject, to be sure. And yet, it is one that needs to be broached if we want to be rewarded by God for our deeds at the end of our lives. As mentioned earlier, the Lord isn’t looking so much at what we do for others as much as He is our motives behind those deeds. Our motive is the thing that will determine whether we will be rewarded by Him or not, and not necessarily the deed itself. Motive matters to God.

May God give us the grace to heed Jeremiah’s warning concerning our motives and to make any necessary changes so that our giving will be a fragrant offering that is acceptable and pleasing in His sight....

....and not one that is wholly ignored.

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Published by: Judi
Date: 2010-09-01 21:01:17
Wow ... an eye-opening article for sure! Thank you for the message. I pray I can heed it well for the rest of my life here on earth.

Published by: Teresa
Date: 2010-08-21 23:53:47
I completely agree.... Do not let your left hand know what the right is doing....

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