On our Motivations for Good Works

Fork in the road sign

On of my dear cyber-friends, Katie Schuermann, just posted a provocative and wonderful article about the question of adoption and her own motivations for desiring to adopt a child.  I would encourage you to read it.

I will leave the fertility/infertility/adoption question for another time right now. But she brings up an extremely important point that I think is worth our consideration. Why do we do what we do as Christians? What is our motivation for good works, and what are we to do when we feel like our motivation for a certain action (in this case, adoption) is less than pure or even tainted with sin?

Katie writes,

I want to adopt, because I am a guilty sinner, a people pleaser, and a selfish barren woman. I am so gross.

Yet, even in my grossness, my husband and I still think of adopting. It is the question we ask ourselves every month, and every month, thus far, we come up with the same answer: not today. The green light we currently see before us seems to lead straight towards serving our neighbors in our church and in our community. Our hand continually hovers over our turn signal, but the left-turn arrow still shines a stubborn red.

In all of the questioning and the hovering and the waiting, it helps me to remember this comforting truth: whether my husband and I adopt a child or not, the Lamb of God covers my grossness with His precious, redeeming blood. Christ is my salvation. Only He can truly assuage my guilt. And only He can give me the gift of child.

Thy will, Lord, not mine.

God bless you and your dear husband, Katie. These are terribly difficult decisions that I will not presume to answer for you or anyone.

So as I read Katie’s article (quoted in part above) a part of the anxiety seems to be fear of acting from impure motivations.  That’s what I’d like to address briefly.

The more one grows in faith, the more aware one is of their wretchedness and inability to do anything right or from pure motivations. As Saint Paul wrote,

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18 ESV)

If, then, I am continually full of sin and my motivations are always mixed, what does this mean for me as I go about determining how to serve my neighbor? There are two parts to that answer:

  1. What it means is that I continually flee to Christ and His mercy for forgiveness and peace. I will continue to sin this side of the grave, and Christ will continue to forgive me and embrace me with His grace. This is the very heartbeat of the Christian faith.  Katie does a nice job of highlighting this at the end of her article.
  2. My reasons for wanting to do or not do something are always secondary to the question of “how may I serve my neighbor“? Knowing that God is going to use even my bad motivations in service to my neighbor, what will actually be of service to them? And since we always have multiple neighbors and this is at best an imperfect process, I make the best decision I can, move forward, and ask God to forgive me however I may mess up.

I don’t know if this helps or not, but this is how I try to approach the “how, then, shall we live” sort of questions.

+Pastor Todd Peperkorn

Original Article Referenced:

To Adopt or Not to Adopt | He Remembers the Barren

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