17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Dear God, there is a part of verse 19 that caught my eye: “…whoever practices and teaches these commands…” It could just be a matter of translation, but the idea that “practices” is listed here before “teaches” reminds me that I can speak with the tongues of angels, but have not love then I am nothing (paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13). I can talk, and talk, and talk, but my example is so much more important than my words. James would later call it “faith without works”.
The problem I can run into sometimes is that I can be tempted to focus on the works. I can try to make sure that the works are there for others to see, but what is my motivation? Is my motivation to pursue you, or is my motivation to impress others?
I went to a wedding and a funeral yesterday. Why did I got to them? For the wedding, the motivation was purely to show love to the bride because there was nothing in my attendance for me. Perhaps some standing is the eyes of some of my staff who saw me there, but I would say that they are not why I went. I went to show love. The funeral, on the other hand, did have some political motives. The funeral was for a dear man who used to volunteer where I work. I would have gone to his funeral regardless, but I have to admit that there were some political benefits to people seeing me at the funeral. I was also grateful that the family designated our Center as a beneficiary of memorial donations on his behalf, and I wanted to show them that I didn’t take his loss for granted.
Father, I guess my point is that I will always have a mixture of motivations for every “good deed” that I do, but I want the core of every motivation to be my love for you and my decision to submit my entire life to you, regardless of what the submission costs me. There is a part of the play I saw last night where a one girl is manipulating another, and ultimately gets her to swear an oath of servitude. It is chilling and awful, but that is the kind of relationship I have freely and willingly entered into with you. And I do it because I believe that your plans are greater than my life. Your will is more important than my success. In short, you are God and I am not.