Do you have any “good” behavior that stems from “bad” motives?

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Throughout this devotional on pruning, I have stressed that since we are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, some of the most prune-worthy branches are actually “fig leaves.”

Our “fig leaves” are often glittering images we project or the impressive behaviors we put on display for others. In that way, fig leaves are not overtly dark like the elements of the sinful self. Rather, we use these fig leaves to masquerade as admirable and even attractive. And even though we look good on the outside, our intentions are not always pure.

Every single one of us can implement some fig leaves that at first glance don’t look that bad, but in fact, are working against God’s intentions. For instance:

  • being good, not as a fulfillment of God’s will, but in order to be recognized as such, or at the very least, not look bad
  • being loving, not as an outgrowth of first being loved by God, but so that other people love you back
  • accomplishing things, not so that God’s Kingdom might be brought into being, but so that other people respect you
  • being unique, not because God gave you unique gifts, but in a frantic effort to construct an identity
  • information gathering, not so that you might be wise in Christ, but in an effort to not look stupid or incompetent
  • looking to others for all support, not as a form of interdependency, but as way of living vicariously through them (or a lack of trust in our God and ourselves)
  • always looking to the next thing, not because of vision, but because of a fear of missing out or being left out
  • being in charge, not because the Spirit gave you leadership gifts but because you’re a control freak
  • keeping the peace, not because you’re a godly peacemaker, but because you’re anxious
  • being right, not as a conviction based on experiences with God, but as an attempt to stabilize an uncertain world through black & white thinking

When these behaviors are driven by false motives, they are anxiety-control mechanisms. If we abide in Christ and find our identity in him, we no longer have this particular type of anxiety—the chronic kind that needs to be placated. When our legitimate needs—needs for love, acceptance, and affirmation—are met by legitimate means (God!), then we no longer seek to have them met by illegitimate means (the fig leaves of the false self). 

And when we live in intimate, loving union with God, we still exhibit some of these behaviors—being good, loving others, leading groups—but from a place of purity and sincerity, rather than from false motives.


TODAY’s PRAYER: Pray to God that God might continue to prune your fig leaves, especially those places where you do the right thing for the wrong reason. Pray that those false motives would be removed as you increase you experience an ever-deepening, intimate, loving union with God.

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