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Friday, December 2, 2011

Doing the Right Things for the Wrong Reasons

Motivation is a strange thing, nearly impossible to manage least of all control.  I do not know about you but from time to time I find myself questioning my motivation even to the point that I have not done some good things because I was not sure that my motivation was correct.  I think that I am discovering that approach is not profitable.

Philippians 3 is at one level a spiritual autobiography or resume for Paul.  He talks about his qualifications as a Jew prior to his conversion and the way his motivation changed after he met Christ on that road to Damascus.  You know the passage in verse 8 he counts all things he has done before, at it is euphemistically translated, “rubbish” in most of our translations.  The Greek is a lot more colorful, it is a more profane term for excrement.  10 – 13 outlines his new motivation, succinctly put to press on through any and all barriers to lay hold of Jesus Christ completely and totally.

Paul was a Pharisee; as such he had the first five books of the Bible memorized.  He studied the scripture, he applied it to his life, he shared his faith at sometimes rather forcefully, he was involved in meeting with other Jews to discuss and apply the scripture, he prayed regularly.  All that he counted as “rubbish.”  What did he do after his conversion, when his motivation changed?  I would submit that, based on what he told others to do, he was still doing the same things, but with the motivation of pursuing hard after Christ.  The disciplines in which Paul engaged and counsels us through his epistles to engage in are what they are.  They are the means of pursuing Christ.  Problem is that we can do these things for other reasons than grabbing hold of Christ.  Reasons like trying to gain His favor learn more than others in our group, become an expert on the scripture, you may be able to articulate a better list.

There is the rub.  When we question our motives we may be inclined to stop doing the right things because we are doing them for the wrong reasons.  Paul speaks to this directly in 15 – 16.  He tells us to keep on doing it even if we are doing it for the wrong reason.  Why?  Because in the midst of engagement with the Word of God, God will break through, reveal, and adjust our attitudes.  If we quit, we cut ourselves off from the cure.


  1. Great insight. I have been there, and may be there now. I am enjoying this journey with you. MP

  2. Excellent meditation with terrific points. I know there have been times (among MANY I didn't even respond so well) in my family relationships, esp. with my wife, that the last thing I wanted to do was the right thing. In those times when I did anyway, my motives often times stunk, were selfish, just to escape "feeling lousy," goodness knows what else.

    But when I did the right thing, I still got the results that God promised - and the payoff has been incredible. I think we call that "grace," by which we are called to live anyway.

    Thank you for this post!

    Chuck S.