“Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is always wrong.” The first time I heard Dr. Bryan Chapell say this it gave me pause. An extended pause. I didn’t like it because I know my motives for doing something “right” might not always be aligned with biblical truth. They might not always be the purest. Now I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Chapell.
A few years ago I had the privilege of delivering the Sunday morning sermon at a fairly large church on the west coast. My topic was God will never, never, never punish a believer for their sin. If God still punishes us, or our families, etc., for our sin, then Jesus did not bear all our sin on the cross. His punishment in our place was only partially effective. But because it was 100% effective, as a believer I never obey to avoid punishment. I obey to experience the love that He already has for me (John 15:10).
As Sue and I were walking out to the parking lot after the second service, we were following a couple that had no idea the guest pastor was right behind them and could hear every word they were saying. They were roasting me! The bottom line of their disagreement was if God doesn’t punish us for our sin, we will never be motivated to obey. This meant they were not obeying to enjoy the love of God that Jesus had earned for them, but rather their acts of “obedience” were acts of self-protection. Protection from a God who discounted the work of Christ on the cross and was still displeased with them. They were basing their behavior on a lie. On disbelief.
There is an important principle here. What if sin does not lie simply in the act, but in the reason, the motive, the disbelief behind the act? If I serve my friend, on the surface it may appear to be a right thing to do. But if my motive is to get something in return, my serving is not right. It is manipulation. It is a selfish act. It is wrong.
Jesus reiterated this principle when he said, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you… ‘These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart is not in it'” (Mark 7:6, The Message). They appeared to be doing the right thing, but for wrong reasons. They were frauds because their acts were fraudulent. They were wrong. “Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is always wrong.”
So what do we do? We act out of a desire to honor God and a motivation of love…for God and others. And how do we grow in our love? By immersing ourselves in the love God has for us…and then we find ourselves loving because He first loved us.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.