Are you doing this "good thing" for his or her benefit or are you doing it to feel good about yourself? This is an important question for any missionary and continually comes up in day to day interactions. One must, of course, take into account a quote by C.S. Lewis, "I’ve never had an unselfish thought." But what is our primary motivation? So many people work hard, doing good things, for the end result of feeling good about their contribution. This is religion and this is NOT the Kingdom of God. Jesus addressed this concept frequently, especially with the religious leaders of the region. These were upright people, model citizens, those whose lives were characterized by good works. But their motive was self. It is so fascinating that the same work, however significant, can be done with selfless or selfish motives. As a missionary, I can serve all day. I can serve with care and concern for the other person or I can serve to feel good about the fact that I am serving.
The difference is love. The word often used to describe Jesus’ motivation was compassion. Am I focused on their benefit? Am I submitted to what the King desires or simply to what I want to do in a particular situation. The difference between religion and the Kingdom is this submission to the King, this listening to what He desires, yielding one’s desires to His, and obeying His command or request. The emphasis in the Kingdom is submitting, listening, yielding, and THEN doing. Religion will get it wrong in one of several ways. The emphasis will be on 1) learning rather than listening (Bible studies, conferences, books, etc), 2) hearing and learning without doing, and 3) doing without listening. I’m quite familiar with all of these, as I’m sure you are, as well. The issue is dependence (the Kingdom) vs independence (religion). When Jesus speaks to those who highlight all that they did for the Kingdom, what will be His response? "I never knew you." All was done independently of the Father. Religion.
Living in South America is a striking example of how the broad road will be full of who we consider very "good" and very "nice" people. There are so many beautiful people here (both in the towns and out on the rivers) who see no need to live in submission to God. They believe in His existence and believe that being a good, kind person is important. But many in that day will point to all their "goodness", and He will simply point out that there was no relationship, no submission, no humility before God. There will be presidents, kings, doctors, river people from the Amazon, untouchables from India, lawyers, priests, missionaries, pastors, teachers, social workers, etc. There will be those who won Nobel prizes for their contribution to humanity, environmentalists, liberals, and conservatives, all very "good" people. But who saw relationship with God as unnecessary, a crutch, too difficult. They will be given their heart’s desire – an eternity of independence without the presence of God (and without all things good, since all good things come from Him). The Bible is clear that there will be an eternal place with God’s presence and a place without God’s presence, each place chosen by the respective inhabitants by their choice of living in submission to God or independently of Him.
We can learn much about God and do many good works, both without relationship with a God who cherishes us deeply and made us for one purpose – relationship with Him. How is your relationship with this loving God today?
1) Maturity is measured not in years but in wisdom.
2) Wisdom is demonstrated in the making of sound decisions.
3) Because we all so often err, perhaps the most valuable genuine words of any relationship are, "I’m sorry".
4) Decisions made for short-term benefit will increase long-term liability. Decisions made for long-term benefit will require short-term cost.
5) Spiritual and emotional wounds often contribute to physical ailments.
6) How you say something communicates more than your words.
7) Success is more about how you journey than about the destination.
8) Balance your time and effort between your tasks and relationships.
9) To hear truth and not apply it is to carry water in a cracked bucket.
10) You are injured and must travel for medical help through a dangerous swamp that contains many pockets of quicksand as well as insects, reptiles, and other creatures that can further harm you. You may choose a guide. Your choices are as follows: a) one newly arrived and well studied who has had many classes in swamp survival, b) one young, beautiful, well-spoken, and fun to be around, c) one who has led many to the other side safely, d) one without experience but enthusiastic and confident in his ability to lead and who guarantees your safe passage, e) one who is quite convincing that the dangers are exaggerated and that the crossing requires little thought or preparation, and f) none; you are confident in your knowledge and abilities and do not need a guide. Which are you choosing in this, your life’s journey?