“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV).
As we close our look at this verse, it’s important to be conscious of our internal motives as we seek to apply this passage. For instance, it helps to remember that God is aware of any ulterior motive we may possess in choosing a particular course of action. If we seek to maintain the appearance of doing good with a different corresponding motive, we can rest assured that God is fully aware of it.
The Biblical account of Ananias and Sapphira may represent the clearest example of this reality. You see, Ananias and Sapphira were a husband and wife couple who brought a financial offering to the first-century church under false pretenses. It appears their willingness to offer that gift was motivated by a desire to secure praise, honor, and recognition for their “generosity.” However, the Apostle Peter quickly identified the inappropriate nature of their offering and their seemingly noble gesture was shown to be not what it seemed.
Jesus also had an experience with others who came to Him with disguised motives. Once after feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, a group of individuals sought Him out once again. But Jesus, knowing their true motive, said to them, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (John 6:25-26 NIV). Unfortunately, those who were seeking Jesus in this passage seemed to be less interested in Him and more interested in what He could do for them.
These examples demonstrate the need to prayerfully audit our internal motives in a given situation. For instance…
- Are there other agendas hiding behind our words or actions?
- Are we acting selfishly or unselfishly?
- Are we considering the needs of others as well as our own needs?
- Are we seeking to do the right thing or the easy thing?
While others may look upon outward appearances, God looks upon our hearts (see 1 Samuel 16:7). If our motives are good and acceptable before God, then our actions should follow as well. But if not, we should take care that we are not counted among those who are mentioned in the book of the Biblical prophet Isaiah…
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).