Morality is Not the Point
- Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Now stay with me. If you don't agree now, you may when I’m finished. For a while now I’ve been asking the elementary-age kids I know, “What do you think God wants most from us?” Most of the time the answers are something like, “God wants us to be good” or “God wants us to pray a lot.” I was even pleased to get a “God wants us to help people.” These were the kind of answers I expected—but they are wrong. They are off by perhaps three degrees. If you start on a journey and you are three degrees off of your bearing, you will in a short time be half a mile off-course. In a few days you will be hundreds of miles off-course, and soon you’ll be in the wrong hemisphere. You will have completely missed your destination. That is why sailors have checked their compasses obsessively for thousands of years.
When I ask “What does God want most from us?” the words I hope to hear are “He wants us to love Him.” That’s the point. That’s what matters most. And in the pursuit of loving God we need to toss overboard whatever may distract us or cause us to drift off-course. The distractions are legion.
Christianity is complex; sin is easy. Those of us who have lived some years as followers of Christ are probably not going to stumble into a life of violent crime. We are probably not going to wake up one day and choose to wholly reject God and become angry atheists. However, we do need to be afraid of drift and distraction. As sinful humans, we will drift away from God, and we will be distracted—it’s unavoidable. Consequently, we need to discover these distractions early and get them corrected quickly. It's also important to note that these distractions come not only in the form of sinful temptations—they can come in any form. They can even look like good things. King Saul was distracted by his desire to be a good king, and the Pharisees were distracted by their devotion to Scripture, of all things. Abraham was distracted by his love for his son Isaac; it caused him to drift away from God. For those of us working to serve and teach kids through ministry, we need to be especially vigilant and stay on our course.
A wise man once observed that for ministers, the one thing that hinders spiritual growth most is ministry. The very act of ministry can be a distraction from our relationship with God. Many enter into ministry with visions of making a difference in lives, of leading people toward growth and maturity. That’s the wrong motive. You’ve begun to drift by perhaps three degrees.
The right motive for ministry comes from loving God so much that you want to spill it over on others. If you go into ministry solely to serve either kids or adults, you are already distracted and drifting off-course. You will run aground. How? Kids certainly won’t appreciate your sacrifices; and adults won’t understand what you’re trying to do. They will even fight you and impede the very thing they hired you to come and accomplish! This scenario happens so often it has a name—burnout. To avoid this kind of disaster in ministry, in work, or in parenting, we need to honestly and humbly check our bearings and adjust our course constantly toward loving God.
Morality is not the point. When it becomes the point you will become corrupt. You will have lost sight of the main goal—loving God. This concept is very important when you are guiding a child or young believer in Christ. The Pharisees were moral, the most moral people around, and Jesus reserved His most scathing and condemning words for them (Matthew 23:27). Morality will not save you from hell; it will not even make you a better person. However, it will make life miserable for those around you. And eventually you will run aground. You won’t be able to keep it up; you won’t be able to keep mustering your will to step up and rescue you. Morality is not the point; it is merely a means to a much greater end.
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