Lately I’ve been asking myself, “why be holy?”. No, I’m not asking because I’m pondering doing something unholy! I’ve been pondering this as I consider what it is that motivates some people to push on with resisting temptation and growing in holiness and what motivations are simply not enough when it matters. What is it that I need to focus on to stay hanging in there?
There is a common argument that we should be holy because things work out best if you live God’s way. Certainly there is some truth to this, as the book of Proverbs makes clear. God does know what he is talking about and doing things his way can help us avoid a lot of nasty pitfalls. However, a pragmatic approach of “being holy makes things work out better on average” very easily twists into “being holy makes your life turn out how you want.” Thinking holiness will get us our wish-list is an easy trap to fall into. It is an especially easy to end up using the holiness will get you what you want idea when trying to motivate others because it is so straight-forward. What could be more simple than convince people of than do “A” and you’ll get “B”?.
The problem is, if we are holy primarily because we think it will make our lives work out well and give us what we want, there is a good chance we won’t last the distance. We will run up against situations in life where things just don’t seem to work. The things we thought God was going to give us sometimes simply don’t eventuate on our timetable or never arrive at all. To make it worse, there will almost always be someone (or even lots of people) we can point to who we don’t believe are being as holy as we think we are who are getting exactly what we want. I am not proud to say it, but I have certainly had some conversations with God where names of such people have come up!
When this starts to happen you will have a pretty high likelihood of giving up if you believe your holiness has earned you the right to things that are being withheld from you. You might do slightly better and manage to keep going but live a rather frustrated Christian life that likely involves lots of grumpy conversations with God. Ether way it isn’t good.
So if getting what we want is a poor motivator for long term holiness, what might a better approach look like? I’ll talk more about that in my next post.