Let me tell you a parable. Or, rather, a series of parables.
Once, quite a long time ago, there was a man who was often doing “good deeds.” He always felt a warm sensation in his heart when he did something that helped others. And, as he was standing in line for a pastry at a small shop near his house, he noticed a little old woman that seemed to be having a difficult time finding enough money to pay for the roll she had taken. He happily stepped up and gave her his two little coins with a smile. As he walked back down the street, now unable to get a pastry for himself, he felt that familiar feeling of knowing he had done good and feeling satisfied about it.
There was also a boy, who, feeling it would do his heart good, decided to wash the dishes he had used to eat that meal immediately after getting up from the table. As he poured the water over his bowl and scrubbed the little spoon he had scooped up oatmeal with, he smiled and thought “surely my mother will be pleased and maybe even pleasantly surprised that I have done this good deed. “
At this same time, a little girl, about ten, was sitting on a swing at recess when an older girl commanded her to let her swing. The little girl thought for a moment and happily jumped off the swing, then found another activity to enjoy.
What can we take from these stories? Here’s one lesson:
These people made the world a better place! They put themselves second and went out of their way to help others and be kind to them. Surely, everyone should seek to be like this man and these two little schoolchildren.
Or, we could take another lesson, this one requiring a little more information about the people in the stores.
That man’s only motive was selfishness. Sure, he gave the woman his coins and forfeited his pastry, but he knew the feeling he would get from that would be better than the taste of the pastry in his mouth. Of course, he tried to tell himself he was doing it out of kindness and a sacrificial attitude. But that wasn’t really true.
The boy thought that getting it out of the way would give him a feeling of freedom to do as he liked and make him feel good about himself, as it did. He also thought his mother might give him a special treat for doing the chore early. So the boy wasn’t being kind to his mother, though the action proved to help her. He was, in a sense, being kind to himself.
The little girl? This action that might seem so innocent wasn’t what it appeared to be. When the older girl told her to get off, she thought of all the other things she could do on the playground, and, deciding those would be more enjoyable, she hopped off. As she did, her heart warmed with the feeling that she had some something kind, just as her mother always told her to do.
So, with those additions to the stories in mind, here is another lesson we could draw from them:
Often, the motive for doing “good deeds” may be tainted, if not completely selfish. When we may tell ourselves we are doing something out of love, the truth may be that we are doing it out of selfishness.
What is true love?
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, ESV)
True love is giving your very life for another. Jesus is the only one who has the capability to love in this way. And if we want to do good deeds out of the pure motive of love, we must somehow channel this love of Christ into our hearts. We can do this by praying and meditating on the Word of God, among other things.
So the next time you think to do a good deed, step back for a moment and ask yourself “why am I doing this?” If you find your motive is truly one of selfishness, then confess that to Christ, and ask Him to give you pure motives.
May our Lord bless you as you seek to follow Him more closely.
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