Thought for the Day by Richard Barton (All Hallows)
“It aint what you do, it’s the why that you do it!”
When you do a good deed. Why do you do it?
When you call up someone during lockdown to check to see how they are. When you pick up groceries for a housebound neighbour. When you reach out to somone you don’t naturally relate to listen a tale of woe about health problems. Why do you do it?
For the non-religious there may be range of reasons many of which probably ultimately derive from the Christian culture of this nation whether that person knows it or not. But for us as Christians there can still be a surprising range of reasons both good and bad. Do we do our good deeds out of guilt from a recent sermon from our vicar? Are we doing things in order to win ourselves a place in heaven some time down the road? Are we helping others so when we are in a bad spot they or others might help us, a sort of moral quid pro quo? Do we do our good deeds in order to be seen to be good and gain favour and importance amongst our community?
This last is the implied reason the seven sons of Sceva in Ephesus went about driving out or trying to drive out evil spirits. They saw how Paul had become respected and admired for his healing acts in the name of Jesus. The saw a chance to use the magic names of Jesus and Paul and gain popularity and acclaim in an easy healing gig. The evil spirit in the man they were trying to heal, saw straight through them. “Jesus I know, Paul I know, but who are you?” And the man promptly beat all seven of them up.
So if we carry out acts of love and kindness because we are moved to this by knowing the acts of love and kindness that God through Christ has done for us, through what we read and through what we experience from others around us. I suspect this is the best approach to motivation and we are least likely to get, metaphorically, beaten up by our conscience.
People may respond with “So you are telling me I don’t just have to love my neighbour, but have to do it in the right spirit as well?” And the answer is, er, yes! Or (with apologies to Bananarama) “It aint just what you do, it’s the why that you do it!”