Sometimes motives don’t seem that important. Even the Apostle Paul wrote that he was more concerned about the message than the motives of those who were spreading the gospel of Christ (Philip 1:12-18).
But sometimes motives are enormously important. A married woman would definitely care if she knew that her husband was giving her flowers, or buying her a car, to try and smooth over an adulterous affair.
Paul also saw the importance of motives in his first letter to the church at Corinth (1Corinthians 1-12). In a letter written to help his readers work through a series of strained relationships, Paul reminded them that (1) if we are eloquently saying the right things for the wrong reasons, we are just making noise; that (2) if we are thinking, understanding, and believing all of the right things for the wrong reason, it amounts to “nothing”; and that (3) if we give everything we own to feed the poor, even going so far as to sacrifice our body in the process, for the wrong reason, it will all be worthless as far as we are concerned (1Cor 13:1-3).
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason may not hurt those who benefit from our charity. But wrong motives can harm our relationships if we get caught saying or doing “the right things” (a.) to protect ourselves, (b) to distract from our weakness, (c) to please others, (d) or to make an impression etc…
For some reason, when it comes to “whether we are doing the right thing” before God, so often the issue seems to devolve into “what we are doing,” and whether we are doing “right” or “wrong.”
The truth is that we can spend our time praying in an effort to get our own way, reading and studying our Bible for pride of knowledge, and giving to good causes to develop a reputation as a charitable giver.
If that’s the case (and an inspired Paul assures us that it is), then is it possible that if we are spending most of our time on what we are doing rather than why, maybe we should reverse, revise, or re-allocate what we are thinking about?
Is it possible that wise paths are often found in “why’s” places.