By Stan Mitchell
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry; but others out of goodwill” (Philippians 1:15).
Is it possible to do the right thing … for the wrong reason? Paul begins his magnificent description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 by declaring that if he “had the gift of prophecy,” had a “faith that could move mountains” and “gave his body to the flames” without love, he was nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2,3). Jesus continually condemned religious leaders of his day for looking good, appearing pious, doing religious things, but possessing impure motives. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me,” he declared” (Matthew 15:8). Is it right to honor God in song and prayer? Of course it is! That’s doing the right thing. But heart and mouth were as compatible as political parties in a presidential election.
They were doing the right thing (honoring God) for the wrong reason (probably to appear religious).
Doing something good just because the TV camera is rolling, or because an award for Christian achievement is offered is apparently too strong a temptation for many to resist, for the Bible warns constantly against it.
Think we’re immune?
That self confidence could be fatal! It’s what makes us vulnerable to doing a good thing – preaching, praying, being generous – for motives that are less than pure. Why do we go to church? To see and be seen? To make business contacts? To be entertained, served, or have our own needs met? To promote our own good deeds?
The thing is, what people may see is a Christian doing Christian things; what God sees is the true motive.