I’ve recently been thinking about Ruth’s motives. No, not my Ruth – the Old Testament Ruth. What was it that motivated her to commit to her mother-in-law, leave her country and start all over again in a strange land? The conclusion that I came to is that perhaps it doesn’t matter what her motives were. The important thing was that she put herself at God’s mercy – why she did it might not be important.
I remember the early days of each year at Canowindra, seeing a row of new first-year students, grinning like the little sunbeams that they were. “Why have you come to Cornerstone?” we’d ask. “Because we want to grow and be more like Jesus!” they’d say. As the months rolled on, and the real motives began to the surface, you’d realise that some of them should have just pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
But it was the same for them as it was for Ruth. They’d left family, friends and the familiar for the unknown hardships of rural central west Australia. The fact that they’d come was more important than why they’d come. They’d foolishly put themselves in a place where God could get at them, and He just got on with the business of transforming lives, regardless of motives.
With suspiciously good timing, I found myself reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians during these reflections. In that letter Paul identifies two groups of preachers – the ones who used Christ as a means of stirring up trouble for the Church, and the ones who did it for love of God. “But who cares,” says Paul, “as long as Christ is being proclaimed?” God will always be building His kingdom, it’s just that sometimes He uses the devil to do it.
I’m not saying that motives don’t matter. Sometimes they matter a lot; sometimes they’re the only thing that matters, and everything done out of wrong motives will be burnt away and none of those nice-looking deeds will be left standing. I’m just saying that sometimes motives don’t matter. God can judge our motives, and God decides when those motives matter.