The Right Thing for the Wrong Reason
Does the “why” behind our behavior matter as long as the cause is good?
Years ago a man in a church I served gave our leadership a check for $20,000. We were thankful until we discovered it came with some strings attached. Half of the money could be used for any purpose, but the other half could only be used to create a ministry position in the church for his relative. Furthermore, if we didn’t spend the money as he wished it all had to be returned.
We returned it.
Giving to the Lord is good. It is the “right thing”. But whatever is right is nullified if it is done for the “wrong reason”.
Throughout my life I have watched people attempt to do the “right thing”, only to find out they were doing it for the “wrong reason”. In time, their efforts brought great pain into the lives of others. And yet, they were convinced they were doing the will of God.
The prophet Jeremiah once penned this popular verse: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) How can we examine our motives to make sure we don’t destroy the “right thing” with the “wrong reason?”
Avoid “whys” that are critical in nature. It might sound logical to take up a cause because someone isn’t doing their job or is failing to do things according to our standards. But this assumes we are capable of perfect self-evaluation and that the people close to us are rational enough to see through our motives. If we are doing anything because we don’t like the way someone else is doing it, and criticizing the same, there is a good chance we are doing the “right thing” for the “wrong reason.” If God has truly called us to a cause, we shouldn’t have to criticize others to be successful.
Don’t assume because we are successful, by worldly standards, we are doing the “right thing.” The notion that success proves God is with us is not rooted in scripture. I am not suggesting God doesn’t go with us into battle. The Jewish leader Gamaliel made this statement before the Sanhedrin in the case of Peter and John: “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39) However, just because God goes with those who do the “right things” for the “right reasons” doesn’t mean the reverse is true. We cannot rightly say those who are successful must be doing the “right things.” Success does not validate the “wrong reason”.
Don’t compare yourself to others. More than once in my life I have had to check my arrogance and confess the erroneous belief that I must be doing more “right things” than others because God hasn’t blessed them in ways that are obvious. Or so I think. Maybe God is blessing them, but I can’t see what He is doing because I have the wrong criteria. Or maybe God wanted to use them in a bigger way, but I undermined what God was doing with my selfish behavior. Sometimes I reflect on those times I might have damaged some “right thing” others were doing with my “wrong reasons.” If you ever find yourself smugly handing out accolades to yourself and using the failures of others to puff up your pride, beware. The Bible tells us a trip to the bottom isn’t far away (Proverbs 16:18).
It is good to do “right things”.
For the “right reasons.”
And to pray for others who are doing “right things.”
It is enough to guard our hearts and carry out the will of God daily.
This is definitely the “right thing.”