So, tell me…
If someone is forced to do something good, did he actually do something Good?
If someone appears like he’s doing something good, did he actually do something Good?
If someone is doing something that someone else labeled (or deemed) “Good”, did he actually do something Good?
Time to Practice
My 6 year old is taking private viola lessons. Why? Because my wife has grand visions of a family symphony. That said, there’s always the challenge of practicing your instrument to be good at it, and that’s nothing new to our potential violist. For a 6 year old, though, practice time sometimes takes 2nd fiddle (pun intended) to playing with LEGOs.
Last night’s practice episode started out well when he did the easy stuff, but when it came to actually putting the bow onto the strings, something inside of him said, “I’m tired of doing this. I need an excuse to get out of this.” Once he set his mind to that thought, his hands wouldn’t move, his arms would limp, his body started to droop, his efforts started to slacken, and his mouth tiredly declares, “This is too hard. I’m frustrated,”…with matching teary eyes that searched for pity and a release from this Moment of Instrumental Torment. Mind you, moving his bow up and down 10 times, with hardly any effort at all, was all he needed to finish up this practice session.
The next 30 minutes or so was every music parent’s Practice Time frustration.
Bribery didn’t help: If you do it, you’ll have a treat at the end.
Reasoning didn’t help: If you do it, you’ll be done. If you do it, you’ll get better. You need to do it so you don’t have a hard time with your teacher.
Encouragement didn’t work: Try it out, it’s not hard to do. You can do it! You’re not limp, you have hands that work, you don’t have broken bones; Your body works! You’re the best practicer!
Threats didn’t work: If you don’t practice, you’ll be standing there ’til midnight. Looks like we’ll have to take away your toys. I’m getting angry now.
Force didn’t do it: Looks like you have to do it with Daddy. (I come in.) I’m gonna put this viola bow inside your shirt and you can take it out when you’re ready. (He starts to collapse.) Stand up. Get up. C’mon…hold this now (while trying to put the instruments in his hand.) He collapses to the floor and starts to crawl away from me while I place the viola in front of him and follow him simultaneously. It’s a funny sight to watch as my wife looks on from the kitchen.
Eventually, my little violist finally admitted, “You’re forcing me. I don’t want to do this anymore.” I agreed, and my wife resumed her place as Compassionate Mama. After I left the room and took the tremors of the Force with me, they were able to work something out, and somehow, moving that bow up and down wasn’t so hard anymore. He was, again, the best practicer in the world!
Think about this…
Practicing is supposed to be a good thing, right? It’s supposed to help you determine what you’re able to do, and what you’re not able to do, and give you a chance to work on both. It’s a great way to improve your good skills as well as to develop and strengthen your not-so-great skills. And for young, developing minds, it’s supposed to be a way to stimulate, enhance, and sharpen mental development.
However, just because you get someone to do the act of practicing….did he really work on becoming good at something? Was his heart there? Was he willing? Or was he just doing it to be “compliant”?
What then becomes the difference between Doing the Practice and actually Practicing?
Behavior is a Funny Thing
When people look at Behavior, they really focus on the appearance of an action or a set of actions. They focus on outputs, results. They look at the superficial, apparent, obvious. What is lacking is the Heart of the action.
In the Bible, the pharisees were accused of hypocrisy because “all their works they do for to be seen of men” (Matt. 23:5). In other words, their actions weren’t genuine in their intent. What they did didn’t match what they really intended on doing nor was it the real desire of their hearts. When they did something, they did it just to appear good in the eyes of other people….and sometimes, to look better than someone else. They did it to gain praise, accolades, and influence. They wanted to be seen of men, to be recognized. In truth, their actions didn’t reflect their Heart, their Thoughts….and they didn’t want to.
How many of us do things just because it makes it look like we’re doing the right thing. We drive the speed limit…not because it makes sense to do it…but because we want to appear compliant to the law, especially when we see that police car off the side of the road. We follow procedures and policies in our company not because they make sense to do, but because we have to…or else. We give to charities not because we’re generous…but because we want the tax benefits…or we want to appear generous in the eyes of other people. We post on Facebook all the good things we do to others…for Likes, thumbs ups, clicks, and the accolades in the Comments. We provide a service…for a price and a benefit to ourselves…instead of actually serving others….at no cost and no intention to receive any recognition. Even “Fake it ’til you make it” rubs me the wrong way…because you’re faking it. We don’t really do it because it’s right or good. Rather, we do it for show. For appearances.
Isn’t that really Deception?
There are many things we do just because we have to do them. We don’t do them for the pure joy or even willingness to do them. We just do them because we have to. There’s no love in it. Thus, there is no joy as a result of doing them.
For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
If you give a gift, or pray to God, (or do anything Good for that matter), if you didn’t really intend to do it (didn’t really desire to do it, your heart wasn’t in it, or you did it because you felt like you had to), then it does you no good. It’s not counted to you as Righteousness. Simply doing the act doesn’t give you the points.
If you do that Good thing grudgingly–whatever it is–with resentment, without your heart being in it…then it’s as if you never even did it. And God won’t accept whatever you did.
Compliance vs Obedience
“You have to go to church.”
“You have to follow the laws of God.”
“You have to pray.”
“You have to read the Scriptures.”
“You have to share.”
“You have to be good.”
Good things, right? But there’s one problem: You have to do it. When you feel like you “have to” do it…you’re just COMPLYING. You’re being forced or compelled to do it. You’re not being OBEDIENT. Choosing to be compliant is not the same as choosing to be OBEDIENT.
There is no Love in COMPLIANCE, no Heart, no Willingness, no Willfulness, no Passion, no Desire. And once you comply, there is no Joy in the Act. Just resentment. And resistance. And Heart-less-ness: there is no Heart in it.
OBEDIENCE is done out of Love. Obedience is your willful submission to someone else’s will…because you love them. You do it because you love them. And you do it willingly.
This is probably why I read the scripture in John 14:15 a little bit differently now when Christ says:
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
To me, I read it this way:
“If you love me, Preserve my commandments. They’re precious. Valuable. Treasure them. Take care of them. They’re useful. Use them. In short, Keep them. “
And if we truly love Christ, we would handle his instructions with a bit more care, a bit more responsibility, a bit more accountability…in the same way we keep anything else that means a lot to us.
And then I also read it this way:
“Keep my commandments…because you love me.”
Again, we do the things he instructs, directs, inspires, and counsels us to do…because we trust Him. Have you ever noticed that you trust the people and things you love and rely on? Of all the people and things to rely on, shouldn’t Christ be on the top of that list?
We live in a world that will compel us to do good, to be good. You will COMPLY to be Good, to have best practices, to produce quality products. And you will be Audited to ensure that you’re being good and enforce that Good-ness. You WILL be ideal.
Our challenge, as Christians, as good, upright, noble people…is to Be Good…willingly, because we care…because we love…because it is the right thing to do. To be Good and to do Good becomes our choosing, our desire. Let our Hearts not fail us in this effort. Let us keep the commandments to be Good…because we love Christ.