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“What’s my motivation?” It’s the question every actor has to ask when they are trying to get into character. What motivates this person to do what he does? Why is this person reacting this way to this situation? And the reason this is so important to an actor is because if you can understand someone’s motivation, you can empathize with them! And an actor has to be able to empathize with the character he or she is playing if the work is to be believable!

Let’s go a step further and insist that this scrutiny of motives is absolutely essential and at the heart of our purposeful practice of our Orthodox faith. In fact, the whole point of our faith is to so mold our motivations that the character of Christ will be formed in each of us. And this transformation starts with my motives.

Look at our Lesson today in Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-5:

At that time, Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch it out,” and his hand was restored.

The Lord is confronted for allowing His disciples to “break the rules” of the sabbath, and the way the Lord deals with this instructs us in how to deal with our own spiritual growth and maturity. The revelation of motives here allows the Lord a wonderful teaching moment to reveal two very important tests in His actions and His words.

The first Test is People over Process. Actually, it is instructive in our Orthodox tradition that we don’t refer to the directions or the disciplines of the faith as “rules.” We refer to this body in teaching as “wisdom.” The Lord makes it clear that the wisdom of the sabbath disciplines are meant to generally change our thinking and actions about priorities of our lives, not to become straightjackets that prevent us from doing good or loving our neighbors. Wisdom is exactly that; wisdom. A wise man embraces wisdom and doesn’t try to reduce his relationship with God or others to mere rule keeping. The motive for obedience is love of God and love of the other, not love of the rules.

The second Test is Law is to serve Love. The Lord doesn’t say the wisdom is useless! Or that it should be changed or discarded! The Lord reminds these Jewish leaders that even King David allowed a higher wisdom to govern his behavior when he and his men were hungry. They ate the bread in the temple that was exclusively reserved for the priests. The wisdom of the Faith is to motivate us toward love of the other, not the slavery of mere rule-keeping

Today, what motivates you in your faith? Is it fear? That’s great when you’re in kindergarten. This will protect you from the “hot stove” of mistakes. But when you grow up, fear enslaves rather than sets free. Your motivation has to grow up as well! Is your faith motivated by the hope of rewards? Again, that’s great when you’re three years old and you pick up your toys so you can have the treat, but as an adult your motivation has to “grow up” here as well. Maybe your faith is primarily motivated by habit? This isn’t bad, but it is rarely ever enough. No, today your motives have to grow up. You have to learn how to be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Did you miss last night’s Faith Encouraged LIVE? Well, you missed out on hearing how parishes around the country are using the “A Journey to Fullness” video outreach tool in their local parishes. Listen to the recorded program here at this Link and then pass it along to your parish priest! You can order the series or even download the videos by clicking the link below!

1 Comment

  • Paula
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Thank you for this timely reminder, Father. The words “prayer rule” came to mind in reading the first test. I struggle with beginning to even have a prayer rule, as I am inconsistent in my attempts. What really got my attention is the comment on kindergarten. Recently in conversation I described myself as being in kindergarten regarding Orthodoxy, as I am a new convert. I realize it is a process to get from kindergarten/rule keeping, to proper motivation of the heart/love of God and neighbor. My focus at this point is to not break the rules, that is, to pray consistently, to attend church consistently, to fast consistently, etc. This has already caused me to crash and burn, because I was doing it as a means to an end, so to speak, and missing the whole point.
    On the other hand, I am thankful for this new beginning and if anything, am motivated to embrace it fully. There is so much to learn and re-learn. May God grant me patience and focus on Him and not myself.

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