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Why Doing Right in Selfishness Is Wrong

Honesty born of fear does nothing to root out the fundamental cause of evil in the world—the radical self-centeredness of the human heart.  —The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller


You can replace the word, honesty, with any seemingly virtuous behavior that is trying to gain you position with God. When the action you take is based in fear of God’s retaliation or belief that your goodness forces God to give you a good life, it’s meaningless.

As Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 13, you can speak mysteries and all knowledge. You can have incredible faith, but if it’s all about what it gets you, there’s a serious issue.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  –1 Corinthians 13:3

Anything not done out of love, no matter how awestruck the world may be at your sacrifice, is pointless. If that verse is true though, anything done in love does profit you. Love’s motivation isn’t profiting, which is why God’s blessing is so drawn to it.

Even in the last few days, I’ve heard someone say they were in awe of my wife and I because we’ve been foster parents for nearly fifteen years and advocates of adoption in various ways. Honestly though, we came into this not from a place of trying to do something good but heartbrokenness.

We had tried for several years to have another baby after our first son was born. Suffering through multiple miscarriages and issues, we cried out to God. What are we supposed to do? We love our son, but we know we have enough love for others as well.

God led us to foster care. I will say, if you’re looking for a quick “good deed” checkbox, this isn’t the path for you. My wife, me, our kids–we’ve found ourselves devastated multiple times. Really, devastated seems too polite.

If I were to attempt to describe some of the mental/emotional torture we’ve undergone, maybe you could say it’s like having your heart ripped out and thrown under a steamroller then when that passes, someone drops an atomic bomb.

But loving and doing isn’t always easy.

And the difficulties aren’t the only part of the equation. We’ve watched little babies come alive who had lost all hope. We’ve watched physical miracles in children’s health and bodies. We’ve experienced the heart of the Father in hundreds of ways through living with and trying to love traumatized and scared little people.

A year ago, we even got to travel to Washington D.C. to receive an Angels in Adoption honor with representatives from all over the United States. There have been direct physical, spiritual, emotional rewards in attempting to love.

Understand: the pain and the rewards are not equal. When hardship comes, you get tempted to believe that this is the greater power; but pain will not continue into eternity. So if it ceases how can it be greater than love and its rewards which remain forever.

Don’t shy away from love today. Love your God and love those around you–just because it’s what you were made to do.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever struggled with “being good” in order to get God to do something (as I have)?


  1. When I was growing up, I struggled to always be the “good” girl, mainly so I wouldn’t let my parents down. I hadn’t been encouraged by either of them to have a personal relationship with Jesus, so they were the be-all and end-all of love that could be withdrawn (or so I thought) if I didn’t measure up.
    I’m here to say, it doesn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, the problem was the “I”, the “me.”
    When I became a committed Christian, and realized that love, selfless love, must be front and center, my life began to turn around. I could be good only because He loved me first and I loved Him back.
    Forgive my ramblings here, Jason, but what you wrote hit me with a blast of truth. Blessings, my friend!

    • Not ramblings! This was so good, Martha! We don’t know what we don’t know, and it can be quite a process to discover the truth. I have a similar story myself. So thankful He loves us into restoration and wholeness, no matter how long that may take. Thank you so much and blessings to you too!

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