Does one’s motive matter? I find the story of the ark of the covenant in 1 Samuel to be fascinating. In an effort to be victorious in battle they brought the ark onto the battlefield – as if the ark itself would protect them. They were not only soundly defeated but the ark was captured by the Philistines. But then each of the Philistine cities that kept the ark suffered great tragedy. Fearing that they all might be killed, the Philistines sent the ark back to the Israelites. And the Israelites who then treated the ark disrespectfully died.
What are we to make of this story? The ark represented the presence of Yahweh (LORD) in the midst of Israel. In the past, it had been carried into battle (Joshua 6). The LORD (that is the ark) was the key to deliverance from their enemies. This time, however, the ark was present and they were defeated. Could Israel’s God be powerless? Or was defeat the will of God? I wonder about those times when we assume our “rightness” because we think God is on our side. It is a very precarious place and not at all as “right” as we might think.
In the end, this story of the ark is not really about the ark. It is the story of God who does what God wills and not what we will. We must come before God respectfully. God is to be honored, not so we can get God to do what we want when we want. Rather, we honor and respect God because that is God’s will – and such attitude makes us more than we can make ourselves.
The words of Paul seem to relate: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7) Motive matters. I’m still hoping to live at a level where my motives match God’s will.