Let’s come back to something very basic to our pursuit of God and the transformation he is always after in our lives—everything we do has a reason behind it, a motive.
Within the Christian community we tend to focus on behavior, and that is right and that is wrong. Of course what we do matters. It matters how you treat people. It matters whether you lie or steal or commit adultery. Our actions have enormous consequences to them. However, according to Jesus, holiness is a matter of the heart. This is the gist of his famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus asks, “Why do you pray—to be seen as holy? Why do you give—to be seen as generous? Why do you fast—to impress others?”
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do. ... “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. ...“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1–2, 5, 16–18)
Jesus is moving the whole question of genuine goodness from the external to the internal. He is taking us back to motive. If we will follow him in this, it will open up fields of goodness for us.