I started writing Cornerstone Impact Updates in May. Most of the articles have been focused on what our BRI Partners (like Eventide) are doing. This year we're making a change to these blogs. Each month, the beginning of the blog will be a topical study, while the end will give a brief update on our partners. If there are any topics you want me to cover from a Biblical perspective, please let me know.
The beginning of the year tends to be when people are really motivated to reach their New Year's goals -- whether it be focused on health/fitness, finances, work, social, etc. Some of the most common goals people have for the new year include losing weight, paying off debt, saving money, and learning something new. Things I've heard Christians talk about include reading the Bible every day (or read the whole Bible in a year), praying every day, serving more at church, and inviting a friend/co-worker to church. All of these are good things on the surface, but your heart behind the actions is also important.
Our motives matter to God
A motive is, "a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious."
A good question to ask yourself to figure out if what you're doing is for the right reasons or just to be noticed by others is: "If no one ever knows what I am doing (giving, serving, etc.), would I still do it?" You have to be really honest with yourself. Matthew 6 warns us about doing things solely to be seen by others:
1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that you may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
This isn't to say that public acts of obedience towards God are bad. In Matthew 5:16 we're told, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." The issue is not the public acts. These public acts become an issue if they are done solely for public recognition instead of giving God glory. Therefore, the problem isn't the act itself but the motive behind it.
Biblical examples of people doing good things with wrong motives
Pharisees: In Matthew 6, Jesus criticizes the religious leaders for doing the right things for the wrong reasons. First, he talks about giving to the poor, as referenced before. When the Pharisees helped the needy, they ensured it was public so that they received praise from others. Jesus tells us instead to give privately and seek rewards from God. Then, Jesus talks about prayer, which similarly should be done to draw near to God. The Pharisees were long-winded and loud in their prayers to seem righteous before man. But Jesus calls us to pray in secret so we're not trying to earn man's approval.
More of Jesus' criticisms to the Pharisees can be found in Matthew 23:
5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others... 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others...
David: King David is known for being a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14); however, he was human just like the rest of us and sinned. He did a lot of honorable things, but for this specific example, I'm going to focus on his adultery with Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 11, after David commits adultery and finds out Bathsheba is pregnant, he brings Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, home from battle. David wanted Uriah to come home and sleep with Bathsheba. To everyone else this seems like a generous act – Uriah was one of David's top warriors and it appeared as though David was giving him a break to see his wife. If you keep reading 2 Samuel 11, however, it becomes clear that David's motive is hiding his adultery. He does whatever it takes to hide his sin, including effectively organizing Uriah's death in battle.
What are your motives?
Are you motivated by the approval and favor of others instead of seeking the favor and approval of God? Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 1 that it's not possible to both please man and please God:
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
It's so easy to get caught up in the world and what others think of us. Humans like to have instant gratification, something we don't always get when following God. Here are some good reminders for us to keep the right perspective:
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
You can do all the right outward actions, but it doesn't matter if your heart isn't in the right place. You might gain some rewards on earth for your deeds, but God knows where your heart lies and will be the final judge. He also gives better rewards than anyone on earth, including the ultimate reward of an eternity spent with him in heaven.
- If there was no visible payoff for doing this, would I still do it?
- Am I doing this for the praise of others or how it makes me feel?
- If those whom I am serving never show gratitude or repay me in any way, will I still do it?
- Do I judge my success or failure based upon my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, or how I compare with others?
BRI Partner Update
This whole blog article has been about our motives. What are your motives when it comes to investing? Do you care more about making a profit than how your investment dollars are being used?
We created the Cornerstone Portfolios last year because we wanted to make a real impact with our investments. There are 3 mandates inside the Cornerstone Portfolios:
- Avoid what is evil
- Embrace what is good
- Engage with the community
Although it's good to avoid investing in companies that don't align with our biblical values, we find it more important to embrace companies who are good corporate citizens. Eventide does a good job finding these companies.
If you're like me, you probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about having access to clean water and how big of an issue it is around the world. Watch this short video from Eventide's CIO, Finny Kuruvilla and it will open your eyes to this issue and get you excited about ways to help this issue.
Here are some key points Finny brings up:
1. Do you care about helping children? Then you should care about clean water.
1.6 million people die each year from diarrhea because they don't have access to clean drinking water. 90% of these deaths are children under 5 years old.
2. Do you care about women's issues? Then you should care about clean water.
In most parts of the world, water is considered women's work. Girls are not allowed to go to school because they are in charge of finding clean water for their family.
Eventide is embracing a company that is committed to helping this cause. A company they invest in has the following 2025 goal: "Provide access to clean water and sanitation solutions for at least 20 million people living at the base of the global economic pyramid." This company has also donated $25 million dollars towards the cause since 2010.
I encourage you to watch this whole video (it's less than 5 minutes.) Finny explains how access to clean water is reaching crisis levels, and how we can use technology to access existing sources of clean water.
Access to clean water is a basic human need and this issue should be something we should all be excited about.
Last month, Inspire's CEO, Robert Netzly, wrote an eye-opening blog that might call out some Christian investors -- specifically the ones who have not adopted BRI into their portfolios and still hold onto secular funds.
The argument he's heard from some Christian investors is, "if the Bible does not say that you have to screen your investments, then you should not screen your investments." Is that a biblical assumption?
Robert then goes to ask two follow-up questions:
- If the Bible does not specifically prohibit an activity, does that mean that you therefore should do it?
- If the Bible does not specifically teach that you should do a thing, does that mean you should refrain?
The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, "'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."
Since we're talking about our motives this month, I encourage you to answer the question (if you have any investments): Does your portfolio only seek your own good, or the good of your neighbor as well?
As we go through 2021, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on and evaluate your motives. If you find that your motives focus on the approval of the world, then work on changing them to align with God.