What makes something I do truly virtuous, truly good? There is some level of goodness in just “doing the right thing;” there is something inherently better about taking a meal to your neighbor instead of murdering them. But is this the bottom line? What about issues of the heart? What about motives?
Bringing someone a meal merely so that you can get them to like you, or at least not think ill of you, would make that same act problematic on the virtue scale. The “inherently good” act would become less than good because the motive or end purpose for the act is selfish.
But if you do the same “good deed” out of love for your neighbor and a desire to honor them and God then you have a good deed from a good motive. Unfortunately, much of what we use to flatter ourselves that we are good people is nothing other than a cover up for the selfish extortion operation we are concealing in our hearts. We use good deeds to accomplish our selfish desires. True virtue requires not merely correct external behavior but also correct internal motives. In the words of the Bible, “man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16: 7).
Judging by these standards, some of the nicest of us are really the most wicked.
Something to think about from “The Kingdom Perspective.”
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
~ Matthew 6: 1