He’s just the latest to articulate well a timeless principle enshrined in the wisdom of the ages. Simon Sinek’s helpful book “Start With Why” is a bestseller precisely because of this reality. I found it so compelling that I bought a copy of the book for each parish council member in my parish.
Wise leaders have always known that if you don’t know “WHY” you do what you do, don’t expect others to follow your lead. We have to start with WHY. And the reason we have to begin there is that your motivation reveals your deepest held beliefs. Your motivation gives you an accurate picture of who you really are, and when your motivation is right, your actions always follow! Sinek says “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” And here is where our Faith must inform our WHY, our motivation.
In our world undisciplined by the selfless love of God, most of us have known motivation based on manipulation; the use of threats, shame, deception, and even mutual “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” But this type of motivation only perpetuates the spiritual poverty of selfish living. It’s a slavery and it isn’t at all how you were created to be. You were created to be “like” your Maker, and He is selfless love Incarnate; generous, giving, with no thought for Himself.
Just look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 14:1, 12-15:
At that time, Jesus entered the home of a certain ruler of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread. He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Once again the Lord calls those who ought to know these truths well back to this timeless wisdom. In the house of a very religious man, the Lord confronts the “tit for tat” scorekeeping manipulation of motivations based on “repaying” the favor. The Lord confronts the socially acceptable “scorekeeping” of those who actually invite others IN EXPECTATION they will be repaid for their “kindness” with an invitation to their feats! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on an invitation list with others putting together an event and the “dark” motivation of repayment has crept into the discussion. “You know we have to invite (fill in the blank) because they will feel they have to invite us to their next event.” This seemingly innocent attitude masks a darker spiritual illness that allows us to 1) feed our ego, and 2) ignore the poor! Motivation Matters!
But when we begin with understanding our motivations AND bring the Truth of our Faith to examine our motivations and correct, educate, and inform our motivations, we engage in that wise lifestyle of repentance (metanoia) that creates the character of Christ within us. If you do good works only with the expectation of repayment, you steal from yourself! And what you rob from yourself is the eternal joys of a truly Christian motivation.
Today, what motivates your good works? Why are you “friends” with that business partner? Why does your parish invite people to your community? When was the last time you really stepped back and asked some probing questions about your motivations? As we pass through this season of fasting and purposeful preparation for the Feast of the Nativity, we cannot allow another “Season of Giving” to slip through our lives without this spiritual labor of discovering or even renewing our true “WHY.” It’s time to set aside the manipulation motivation and embrace the soul healing inspiration of God’s generosity and His Selfless love to change my reason to be like Him. It’s time to renew my “WHY.”
P.S. Dear Lord, I struggle with my motivations. I struggle with my expectations and my desires. And I struggle with all of this because I am wounded by pride and inattentiveness to You. Please forgive me, Lord, and instill within me a desire for You8r blessed commandments that, living a lifestyle of repentance motivated by my love and desire for You, I come to the Awesome Judgment seat of Christ with the right answer! Amen.