Right Motives

To succeed at teaching that leads to the making of disciples, there is nothing more important than having the right motives. When someone is in the ministry for the wrong reasons, he’ll do the wrong things. That is the primary reason why there is so much false and unbalanced teaching in the church today. When a minister’s motives are to gain popularity, be successful in the eyes of others, or make lots of money, he is destined to fail in the eyes of God. The saddest thing is that he may succeed in reaching his goal of gaining popularity, becoming successful before others, or making lots of money, but the day will come when his wrong motives will be exposed at Christ’s judgment seat, and he’ll receive no reward for his work. If he is permitted to enter the kingdom of heaven,[1] everyone there will know the truth about him, as his lack of reward and his low position in the kingdom will reveal it. That there are different ranks in heaven is of no doubt. Jesus warned:

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:19).

Of course, those ministers who do obey and teach Christ’s commandments will suffer for it while on earth. Jesus promised suffering to those who obey Him (see Matt. 5:10-12; John 16:33). They are least likely to gain worldly success, popularity and wealth. What they do gain is future rewards and praise from God. Which would you rather have? In this regard, Paul wrote:

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:5-15).

Paul compared his apostolic ministry to that of a master builder who lays a foundation. Apollos, a teacher who came to Corinth after Paul had established the church there, Paul compared to one who built upon the foundation already laid.

Note that both Paul and Apollos would ultimately be rewarded based upon the quality, not the quantity, of their work (see 3:13).

Figuratively speaking, Paul and Apollos could build God’s building with six different kinds of materials, three of which are common, relatively inexpensive and combustible, and three of which are uncommon, very expensive, and not combustible. One day, their respective building materials would undergo the fire of God’s judgment, and the wood, hay and straw would be consumed by the fire, revealing their invaluable and temporal quality. The gold, silver and precious stones, representing works that were precious and eternal in God’s eyes, would endure the testing flames.

We can be certain that unbiblical teaching will be burned to ashes at Christ’s judgment. So will anything done in the power, methods, or wisdom of the flesh, as well as anything done for the wrong motives. Jesus warned that anything we might do that is motivated by the desire for the praise of people will not be rewarded (see Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18). These kinds of worthless works may not be evident to human eyes now, but will certainly be revealed to all in the future, as Paul warned. Personally, if my works were of the wood, hay and straw category, I’d rather discover it now than later. Now there is time to repent; then it will be too late.


[1] I say “if” because those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing are clearly “ministers’ who are selfishly motivated, and they will be cast into hell. I suppose what sets them apart from true ministers with wrong motives is the degree of their wrong motivations.