Doing the right thing for the wrong reason

Following the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:1-14, Jesus was at the zenith of his popularity. Great crowds followed him across the lake. Jesus, however, discerned a less than stellar reason for their ardor:

“Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26).

They had come for the free lunch. They were crass materialists, coming to Christ only for the food. Instead of seeing the bread in the sign, they saw in the sign only the bread. Instead of coming to fill their hearts, they had come to fill their bellies.

Motives are important in our service to God.

Jesus’ audience expressed this idea: “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6:33).

It may be that they were challenging Jesus to feed the crowd every day.

Jesus’ teachings continued to challenge the crowd, and they began to sense the sort of discipleship he was demanding.

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).

As Mark Twain once declared, “It’s not the teachings of Jesus that I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the ones I understand all too well.” Jesus’ teachings were plain enough to understand; they would be hard to implement. They wanted lunch; he wanted integrity. What they wanted, he would not provide, and what he provided, they did not want.

So severe was their disappointment in the “no lunch, deep discipleship” message of Jesus, many simply left him (John 6:66). It was no longer possible to follow Jesus unreflectively and without making a commitment. Some had attached themselves, but only loosely, to Jesus. Note however that loose attachment can be undone easily.

Here’s where motives matter. When times get tough, or Jesus demands more of us, our motives are unveiled. Were they deep and sincere, or shallow and self- serving?

Remember this: That which brought you to Christ will be the thing that can take you away from him.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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