Extra: good motives or bad?
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
‘Good motives or bad’ – when sharing the gospel, does motivation matter?
"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. ... But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And, because of this I rejoice."
If you read these verses quickly you could gain the impression that Paul believes the motivation behind people’s sharing of the gospel doesn’t really matter very much. But I think that would be a wrong conclusion.
I don’t know about you, but over the years my motivation for sharing my faith has been somewhat of a mixed bag! While genuinely loving the vision in Revelation 7 of people from every people group on the face of the Earth worshipping around the throne of Jesus, there have been many different motivations driving my engagement in world mission.
Number one was guilt! I was “saved” while countless thousands were on their way to hell! A second was duty, although I would probably have called it obedience! After all, Jesus commanded us to “[g]o throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to the whole human race.” (Mark 16:15)
Third was the lostness of the lost. The fact that 15 to 25 percent of the world’s population was still waiting to hear about Jesus for the first time – the majority being amongst the world’s poorest peoples, in lands dominated by other religions such as Islam, Hinduism. and Buddhism. And what about the plight of the millions of street children, and children working in the sex trade each week? Not to mention people suffering from famine, lack of sanitation, medical treatment and education. Surely, the gospel had to impact them too?
This resulted in yet another motivation: the desire to engage with people out of a genuine heart of compassion. At last the penny had dropped – the gospel was meant to meet the needs of people’s souls, and their material needs. The gospel had to address the “whole” person.
As I began to pray, God touched my heart with his compassion. After some powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit, I came both to understand Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel, and to feel something of God’s heart for all the people he had created for relationship with himself:
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)
Thankfully, through the years my motivation has gradually improved, so that I am less driven by guilt, duty and needs, and more by his grace and compassion. However, I want to suggest that this still does not provide us with what should be the ultimate motivation for world mission.
John Piper wrote:
"If the pursuit of God’s glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man’s good in the affections of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be well served and God will not be duly honoured."
Our motivation in life, should be the pursuit of the glory of God, above the pursuit of man’s good. Bringing glory to God, and seeing his name honoured, should be uppermost in our prayers, and the natural outcome of our way of life.
Psalm 96:3 commands:
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples”
“Glory” is a word that is hard to define, but Melissa Briggs is helpful when she says (page 4): "Glory is God’s awesome greatness on display. God’s glory is the public presentation of his infinite worth, majestic beauty, astounding creativity, limitless power, righteous nature, unmatched significance, and perfect holiness; he is intrinsically worthy of great honour. God is so weighty and important, that when this is shown forth publicly, it is described as his glory."
Declaring his glory is about making his name glorious, famous and full of renown in the Earth. We are to call all peoples to become worshippers of the one true living God, bringing him their praise and glory.
We declare his glory so that he receives glory!