I think by now, Christians are pretty familiar with the ones that are always talked about: beauty, sex, fame, fortune, drugs, etc.
I don’t mean to downplay these subjects because for many of us, these are the idols that we struggle with everyday.
But how about doing good things for other people? Can that become an idol too if we’re not careful?
You know, things like going on a missions trip, feeding the homeless, picking up trash, opening doors for old ladies, cleaning your grandparent’s garage, caring for the sick, paying for the guy in the back of the McDonald’s line.
These are all things Christians and Non-Christians agree are… well, good things to do.
But is that enough?
Did Jesus spit in the blind guy’s eyes, multiply the fish, cure the woman with the issue of blood, heal the lepers, and then say “Cool, I’m out guys. Good luck!”
Why Are You Really Doing Your Good Deeds?
Most of us do things that are generally seen as good, humanitarian, tolerant, or nice. Many times, they are things we absolutely love to do with a passion.
Our society usually slaps us on the back saying, “Great job,” and then we go home.
But what have we done really?
Sure we made an “impact”, maybe the recipient of your good deed feels better after you’ve fee them or cheered them up. But where is the eternal impact?
A Story That Taught Me a Life Lesson
I remember wanting to minor in Chicano Studies when I first started college.
Because I believe everyone’s history is as important as mine and learning about another culture keeps away prejudiced thinking.
There were many other good reasons too, but now that I look back at my reasoning, I see that I was motivated by pride.
You see, when I told some of my close loved ones and friends what I wanted to do with my life, it was met with overall positivity. It was considered to be something that was good or humanistic to my friends and family.
Most of the people I shared my plans with were either: A) proud B) encouraging, or C) confused and worried that I forgot that I was not Latina :-).
These responses were entertaining and fueled my desire to study, but my actions weren’t motivated out of godly love.
While I “loved” the culture, “loved” the language, “loved” the food, and “loved” the people, it wasn’t the godly type of love where my aim was to share the gospel.
Instead, it became an obsession and turned into an idol.
I remember the apostle Paul did an outside cultural “assimilation” type experiment once, although he had different reasons for doing so.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, he became like a “Jew, to win the Jews” in order to share the gospel and win them to Christ.
That was not my motivation. It was “good” of me to become open to another culture and way of life. However without love, all my efforts would have amounted to nothing in the eternal realm.
As I was choosing my college major and minor, the Holy Spirit helped me realize that I was free to make my own decision.
However, seeking praise for being a “good”, “tolerant”, and “friendly” person feeds our pride. Instead, everything we do should reflect the love of God and His glory.
How To Discover Your Blind Spots
Before you begin doing something good for someone, ask yourself some introspective questions that will cause you to think about your reasons for serving.
Ask yourself, “Why do I embrace this particular project or topic? Is it so I can become a ‘better person’? Is it so I can be seen as a tolerant and more accepting person? Is it so people will think I’m a good person?”
Maybe you are a good person. People see you as a great person. That’s ok.
But be careful that you are not motivated by receiving compliments from others or pats on the back.
As Paul says, “Watch your doctrine closely.”
Make sure that you always check your motives so that you are not sacrificing time and energy trying to work towards having a good image.
This is idolatry, a form of self-love.
I think of the man at the stake in 1 Corinthians 13:3. “Though I give my body to be burned, without love, it profits me nothing.”
That man on the stake probably gave his life, his house, his whole life savings to provide food, shelter, education, and clothing for the poor who probably needed it.
You may know people like that, who spend every last ounce of their being to satisfy someone else’s need.
But without love, you gained nothing.
Be kind. Love others. Test your heart. Check your motivations.
Are your good deeds motivated by your love for God and your love for others? Is what you’re doing giving Him glory in the end or does it give you glory instead?