"Daddy, why do dogs have four legs, but people only have two?"
"Well, it's like we have two arms and two legs, but the dog has legs instead of arms."
"Well, that way a dog can run faster."
"When you have four legs to run with, it makes you go faster."
"Because. . . it just does, OK?"
"Because that's the way God made things. If you want to know any more, you'll have to ask Him!"
Kids love the "why" question. And who can blame them? They're just trying to figure out how things work. But I've got to admit, when I don't have the answers, I really don't want to hear the dreaded "why" coming from the children. Usually we don't really know "why". We might have a scientific explanation for the sky being blue or birds being able to fly, but we don't know why God made things the way He did. And God didn't see fit to fill us in on a lot of His motivations. On the other hand, God cares a lot about our motivation.
This is Monday, which means my wife will just have to watch Super Nanny tonight on television. This is the show where a family has a couple of kids who have either never been told "no" or have found some other reason for being as obnoxious as humanly possible. Seriously, if you ever question the doctrine of human depravity, watch Super Nanny. The kids rule the house and the parents have no control of the situation. Super Nanny Jo comes into the house, watches the kids slap, punch, scream, destroy, run, swear, cry and break things for a day, then comes up with a plan to get the kids to obey the parents. Obedience is the key. That's all that matters. When a child has to apologize, you can tell he doesn't mean it. He's just saying it to get out of the "naughty corner". The principle is that after a while, he'll actually mean it when he apologizes. Until then, the only thing that matters is that he obeys.
I find it interesting that the goal for Super Nanny (and for most parents) is simply obedience -- verbal assent. Yet that's not the way God treats us. He doesn't wait for us to finally mean it later, He wants us to mean it now. It's not empty obedience that God is after. God is into our motivation.
In the 50's and 60's many actors studied at the Actor's Studio and learned something called "method acting". After a few years, even script writers began to parody "method actors" in scripts. "Method actors" were concerned first and foremost about their character's motivation for doing something... anything. Why would she pick up that magazine? Why is she walking toward the door? The exchanges between actor and director became similar to the exchange between father and child at the top of this post. The thing was, most of the time the movie characters were so poorly developed that there was no motivation for some of the things the actors were instructed to do. The characters were doing something, but nobody seemed to know why. There was no reason behind the action -- just empty obedience.
There are many passages in the Bible where we are told that God's emphasis is on our motivation. When David was anointed king, we learn that man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart. We're reminded that God loves a cheerful giver, and that we must forgive our brother from our hearts. But the one verse which has always stuck out to me is found in John 15:1-8. Verse 5 (NIV) reads, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Nothing? Certainly much has been accomplished by people who were not a "part of the vine." But that's not the fruit Jesus is talking about. It may look like fruit, but if it's not from someone who remains in the vine, then it's "nothing" to God. Why? Motivation.
The proper way to do something pleasing to God is to have the right motivation. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..." is how Paul puts in in Colossians. Everything we do is to be done to bring glory and honor to God. Usually, the "good" things people do are done to bring glory and honor to themselves. Non-Christians certainly aren't doing anything to bring glory to Jesus Christ. I know that I struggle with the same motivational problem. Am I doing something to glorify myself, my family, my church, my denomination or my God?
I face the same issue with this blog sometimes. There have been posts at other sites talking about how to become a more popular blogger. And while I'd like Attention Span to be read by as many people as possible, I have to keep a check on my heart. Do I want to be a "popular" blogger or am I blogging to bring glory and "popularity" to God. That's a tough balance for most anybody, and the same temptation is there for pastors, worship leaders, musicians and teachers. That same temptation is there for all the things we do outside of the walls of a church also. Our motivation must be the desire to lift up the name of our Lord and Savior, not to seek the admiration of men, women and cyberguests.
If we would carry a toddler with us everywhere this week, constantly asking "why", would your motivations measure up to the way God wants your heart to be?