Why do we do the right thing?
Why do we support organisations that seek to help others?
Do we check to see if anyone is watching before we help someone in trouble?
Jesus is telling us that what is in our hearts matters.
Are we looking to please God or to get credit for whatever we do?
People are rewarded many times for the good they have done, and that’s not what Jesus is speaking about.
No, he’s talking about our motivation.
Reward and punishment are primary motivations for behaviour.
How do we try to get our children to behave? Do the right thing, and you’ll get a reward – maybe a cookie or another special treat.
Misbehave, and I’ll punish you – maybe take away a favourite toy, or give you a time-out.
As we grow into adulthood, our motivation should grow and develop.
According to some psychological theories, there are levels of moral behaviour.
Most people, they say, stop at the level of law and order, which means that rules govern them.
For many people, this will be the laws of their communities or the Ten Commandments.
And for some of them, this will be a very literal interpretation of the rule.
The highest level is based on universally held principles.
For Christians, these principles are correct and in line with Jesus’ law of love.
We don’t tell the truth because we might be caught in a lie but because it’s the right thing to do.
We don’t steal because we all have a right to our property.
We don’t just kill; we avoid doing anything that would cause harm to another.
And we support justice and act with compassion because it’s what Jesus would do.
Our God, who sees all and knows our hearts, will reward us for our righteousness, which should be enough for us.