Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” [John 6:26-27 (NLT)]
It’s been said that whenever Alfred Hitchcock was asked by an actor about his character’s motivation, the famed film director’s answer was, “Your salary!” While that probably was the actor’s motivation for being in the film, what he wanted to know was the character’s motivation for his behavior. There is a reason behind all of our actions, both on and off the stage. As Christians, what’s our motivation for seeking the Kingdom of God? Is it a payoff like an actor’s salary or is it something else?
As evident from yesterday’s devotion, I’m not a proponent of prosperity theology; the Holy Spirit does not exist for our benefit and use. God’s goal is our salvation not our material wealth, physical health, or even our happiness. We can believe in Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit and faithfully act on God’s promises and still be poor as church mice or as rich as David Green of Hobby Lobby fame. Most of us, however, fall somewhere in between those extremes (and probably closer to the church mouse than the billionaire). Our wealth (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with the size of our faith in God, the amount of our tithe, or the number of good works we do. After all, if wealth was God’s plan for us, Jesus would have been a rich man. Possessions and comfort, however, meant nothing to him. It’s wise to remember that the only disciple who seemed to care about money was Judas. God is not a heavenly vending machine where we drop in a prayer, financial offering, or an act of service and out comes a blessing.
If amassing blessings and getting something from God is our motivation for seeking Him, many of us will be sorely disappointed. If the size of our faith determines the size of our investment portfolio or 401(k), one look around tells me that God needs a new accountant. A great many devout and generous believers I know have skimpy bank balances and an abundance of trials while a great many sinners seem to be enjoying wealth and a trouble-free existence. As for health—the Apostle Paul certainly wasn’t short on faith or obedience and yet the “thorn” in His flesh was not removed. Today, we can look to someone like Christian author and evangelist Joni Eareckson Tada and see that her decades of deep faith, evangelism, and service have not been rewarded with a healed body. Not everyone in Judah received miraculous healing from the Lord and we have no reason to believe that those who were healed were any more righteous or deserving than those who weren’t.
Ours is a God of grace, not of works, and thinking of our faith, prayers, service, and tithes as something that earns us a reward on this side of the grass turns our relationship into a business transaction which brings me back to my initial question. What is our motivation for seeking the Kingdom of God? Is it that we love God or love the reward we hope to get? Do we want to honor and glorify God or be honored and blessed by Him? Are we seeking some sort of salary or recompense for faith and works from a God who will serve us or are we seeking His Kingdom because we want to serve Him? God sees into our hearts—He knows our motivation for all that we do.
In God’s Kingdom, the devout may not get everything they want but they will get everything they need. And what is it that we all need most? A relationship with God! Seeking God’s Kingdom also means that salvation, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will be ours! That’s motivation enough for me! We seek the Kingdom of God to know Him, to love Him and to have a relationship with Him—anything else is merely frosting on the cake.