It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
Motivation is all the rage. No one believes that things are accidental anymore. Everyone wants to know the why. Why someone does what they do. What’s the spark behind the idea? What was the inspiration that launched a company. An app. A candidacy for office.
You see this in all sorts of reality shows. In Shark Tank, the potential investors want to know how they came up with the idea. What problem were they trying to solve. Who’s pain were they trying to eliminate?
But motivation is more than just about the big things in life. It’s also about the daily things that happen all around us. Why does someone go the extra mile? Willing to do something extra to make someone happy. Happily volunteering to spend extra time and money for someone else.
You’ve probably experienced this at work. Someone comes up with an idea that brings them praise from the bosses. Just watch the vultures move in to copy or steal the idea. Or use their influence to put down the person that first proposed the concept.
That’s the question Paul’s answering about these people who are preaching Christ. It sort of sounds odd, doesn’t it? I mean, shouldn’t people preach Christ out of love for God? Because of who he is all that he’s done for us? Shouldn’t Jesus dying on the cross make us humble, wanting to tell and serve others?
You’d think so. But even within the Christian community, no everyone wants everyone else to succeed. There are bitter battles between different ministries. One church wants to grow, and they don’t care where the people come from. If it’s only some people who’re unhappy at the church down the street, that’s just fine.
So, why did they preach Christ? Answer: to bump up the number of followers. To get more likes on social media. To have more “eyeballs” following their every move on the internet. To increase the number of people that get their daily blogs. Paul uses three words to describe their motivation for why they’re preaching Christ. It ain’t pretty.
Envy – they’re preaching because they have a grudge against Paul. They were jealous of Paul’s preaching style and ability. And in order to put Paul down, they raised up Jesus in such a why that would hurt Paul. Their relationship with Paul has crumbled, leaving behind the rubble of a brokenness of former friends and cooperation.
Rivalry – their broken relationship went beyond just preaching Christ for different reasons. It came out in quarreling between the two sides. They were fighting privately and publicly. There was no hiding their dislike for one another. And the goal of this rivalry was to split the church into different pieces. The more and smaller the pieces, the better
Selfish Ambition – the raw emotion behind their preaching was to raise themselves up and to put Paul down. It was all about them; their gaining more followers, their increased paycheck, their rising fame. They saw how God used Paul to bring many to Christ, so they were trying to pull all those people away from Paul and to themselves.
Now, you might be thinking that this is a new idea. But it’s not. It actually goes all the way back to the beginning. Look at Eve’s reaction to the serpent’s words and her observations about the fruit.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Did you notice it? As she’s looking at the fruit, it’s all about her. How it’s going to be good for her. How pleasing it was to her eye. How it was going to give her wisdom. Her motivation was not about worshiping God and helping others. She was fully focused on herself.
And that apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Did it? I know it didn’t because I’m just like Eve. I look at everything based on what it’s going to do for me. How it’s going to make my life easier. How it’s going to put more money in my pocket? How it’s going to solve one of my problems?
With respect, I’d like to suggest that we’re all brothers and sisters of Eve. We all do exactly the same thing. We look at life with this one question on our minds: what are we going to get out of it? This single thought fills our life each and every day: what’s in it for me?
This, my friend, is how our separation from God plays out each and every day. This is how our sin pops up all over the place. And this is exactly why Jesus had to die for us. Our broken selfishness makes it impossible for us to pay the debt created by us. So, he had to step in and pay it for us. Now, that’s a new and great motivation for a new life.
List three big motivating factors for people. For you.
What are the things that grab your attention, and not in a good way?
Why is the idea of separating ourselves from evil sound so strange?