Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8).
Some time ago, I wrestled with a deep and troubling thought. It had
occurred to me that a lot of good ministry is done for the wrong reasons. Some of the most
enthusiastic Christians, clergy and lay people alike, were quite busy about the work of
God, yet it seemed their motivations were less than pure.
Sure, we know about the TV evangelist caught in a scandal because he chose to line his
pockets with the tithes and love offerings of the parishioners. But these are not of whom
I speak. I am talking about those who are doing the work with what seems to be the best of
intentions--outwardly. Yet inwardly, they are even deceiving themselves. Or should I
say--we are often deceiving ourselves.
In order for a righteous work to be pure, many of us would agree that it should be done
with no thought of self. Works motivated by self-gain or by desire to be recognized will
quickly turn a pure motive to impure. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us that our reward is in
doing our righteous acts not to be seen by people, but by God. And that if our motives are
impure, we will have our reward. That reward will be the superficial recognition we
desired, or perhaps a sense of satisfaction that we did our righteous duty.
Perhaps the most common impure motivation we find in our churches today is guilt. If we do
something so that we don't feel guilty, we then are doing it for ourselves and not so much
for another. We do it so that we can go to sleep with a clear conscience, so we can feel
good about self. Otherwise, we may not feel good about who we are beneath our Christian
label, that somehow we are not living up to what is expected of us. If we claim to be a
Christian, "we should be..." Many things can complete that sentence. And many
things that do are birthed from a sense of religious obligation, driven far too often by
The thing that struck me in all of this was to think about a young man who seems to be
driven. He witnesses everyday, yet the people's faces and names slip away from memory. He
feels he must continue, yet his genuine concern for the people he talks to seems fleeting.
What if the only deep down driving factor for this young man is that he wants to feel
better about himself as a Christian? The guilt is gone, but what else does he have? What
is his reward?
Here's the paradox. If your motives are to remove guilt, to do religious duty or gain a
sense of self-satisfaction, as Jesus puts it, "Verily I say unto you, [you] have
[your] reward." But if you can look at yourself honestly and see that your motives
are impure, and then you can determine "I will do what needs to be done even if I get
nothing from it, because. . ." then you will have your reward. Simply put, "I
realize my motives are often impure, however, I can choose not to let that keep me from
doing what needs done--even if I don't believe I will get anything out of it." If I
do what I do thinking there may be nothing in it for me, then there is truly something for
me. But if I do it thinking about what's in it for me, then there is nothing.