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Mid-Week with Christ
August 5, 2020

Motives over Action

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Romans 10:1-13

1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Prayer for the Day

Heavenly Father, You have given us every good gift in Christ Jesus. Grant that we may place our faith in the Word that is near to us everyday, and serve our neighbor in the freedom of love rather than the slavery of compulsion. We pray all these things through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

It is a common misconception that ethics and religion are about actions and works. That can be true at a superficial level. We turn to ethicists, for example, when we are faced with a difficult moral decision. We talk to a priest or a pastor when we want to know the right or wrong thing to do in a certain situation. But at a deeper level, ethics and religion are really about motivation. Why do we do what we do? 

Detectives investigating a crime don't just ask who had the opportunity or capability to commit a crime. They also look for someone who had a motive. If someone was deep in debt, they would have more reason to defraud their employer than someone who was doing alright financially. If someone had a deep seated anger against a neighbor, they would have a better reason for attacking them than a complete stranger. 

Religion, in the same way, is less about opportunity and capability and more about motivation. Why does a religious person sacrifice for another? If someone gives money to the poor, do they do it to earn a reward from God or to avoid punishment? If so, can such an act really be called good? Isn't it ultimately selfish? On the other hand, if someone does good for a stranger without expecting any reward, isn't that a truly selfless act?

Paul proclaims that Christ is the "end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Carrying out the instructions the Lord gave to Moses now brings no reward, no righteousness, from God the Father. Such is the selfish righteousness of the law - the righteousness that says I will be good in the hope that God will reward me. Instead, the Christian trusts the righteousness that comes from faith - that Jesus has already declared us righteous by his sacrificial death. We serve our neighbor because it is the right thing to do, even without a reward. For any reward God can give has already been given to us freely in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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