As we consider Philippians 1: 12 – 26, focus your attention today on verses 15 – 18.

Motives.  Do they matter?  If good is being done, do our motives make any difference? 

There were individuals preaching about Christ while Paul was in prison … and their motives were not pure.  They were preaching out of envy and selfish ambition.  Paul’s attitude seems to be “so what?”  At first, that surprises me.  How could it be OK?  Several things come to mind …

First, we identified what exactly constituted “gospel” in Post 1 of this lesson.  It is the incarnation, the substitutionary death, the burial, the resurrection and the continued life and presence of Jesus, Son of God.  It seems that these preachers were preaching that message.  Paul was pleased that the message was spreading. 

Second, Paul had no patience with those who preached a perverted gospel … a message that added things and required things of people that the pure gospel does not add.  Go to Galatians 1: 6 – 9.  It is clear that Paul was adamant about the gospel being presented in its pure form.  These preachers Paul mentions in Philippians 1 were evidently not preaching a false gospel. 

Third, it was their motives that were impure … not their message.  It seems that their motives were either to gain more “popularity” than Paul had … or to discredit him in some way.  They wanted people in their “group” or in their “camp”.  That was personal criticism … it was against him … not against the gospel.  So Paul seems to be able to say “what does it matter”. 

Paul was not willing to fuel a competition between himself and others.  His passion was that Christ be preached.  What an incredible willingness to let go of personal ego for the good of the church.

Listen to William Barclay:

Paul knew nothing of personal jealousy; he knew nothing of personal resentment. … All too often we resent it because someone else gains a prominence or a credit or a prestige which we do not receive.  All to often we regard a man as an enemy because he has expressed some criticism of us or of our methods.  All too often we think a man can do no good because he does not do things in our way. … Paul is the great example.  He was cleansed of self; he had lifted the matter beyond all personalities; all that mattered was that Christ was preached.

Isn’t that remarkable!  He did not want attention turned to himself and his circumstances.  His desire was for people’s attention to remain fixed on Christ.  To have confronted these critics in this letter would have drawn all attention back to himself and would have not done any good.  It certainly would not have served any purpose for the Philippian believers.  So he says, “what does it matter.” 

So do motives not matter?  I believe they do.  The issue is that you and I need to examine our own … not other people’s.  We cannot know the motives that drive another person.  We can only know what motives drive us.  Are there preachers and singers and artists who present the things of God out of self-serving motives?  Probably.  Are there preachers and singers and artists who present the things of God out of pure motives?  Yes.  Their motives are clear before God.  They are not clear before us.  So … “what does it matter”?   I want to heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: 1 – 5:  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” 

Our choice?  Let’s give our brothers and sisters the benefit of doubt.  Let’s assume they are functioning out of pure motives and let God be their judge.  The kind of fruit on a tree always becomes evident when it is ripe.

Meanwhile, I want to pray …