November 27, 2022

Motivations for Ministry, part 1

Passage: 2 Cor 5:11-15

Listen to a recent statement from a famous Hollywood celebrity:

“For so long, I did what made other people happy. And I think in the last two years I decided, I’m going to make myself happy … And that feels really good. … I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about what really makes you happy …  I’ve chosen myself. I think it’s OK to choose [yourself].”

“My 40s are about being Team Me. I’m going to eat well. I’m going to work out. I’m going to have more fun, spend more time with my kids and the people who make me happy,” she said.[1]

If you are a pagan or an atheist, that’s a perfectly reasonable position to take. Look out for number one; make yourself happy; make sure “Team Me” wins.

What motivates that kind of an attitude? Selfishness, self-love, narcissism. Self-centeredness motivates people like her to put themselves first, to pursue their own happiness, to choose self above all else. Their highest motivation is self. Their ultimate goal is pleasure—hedonism.

Biblical Christianity teaches the exact opposite attitude. Instead of self-centeredness, we should be God-centered. Instead of pursuing our own interests, we should consider the interests of others. Our highest motivation is not the love of ourselves, but the love of God. Because Christ died for us and rose again, we should be motivated to live for him. J-O-Y.

2 Cor 5:11-15 is all about Paul’s motivation for ministry. He faced a good bit of criticism from the people at Corinth, and in this section of the book, Paul is describing what motivated him to continue to serve God in spite of opposition and criticism.

If you are engaged in ministry, you know that it can be difficult to keep on serving. The temptation always exists to just quit, especially when you encounter opposition or criticism. In order to keep on serving in spite of the obstacles, we need to be highly motivated. We need to keep in mind why we are serving. That’s what Paul is talking about here—motivations for ministry.

Before getting into the text, we should recognize that this is one of the more difficult parts of the letter. Paul’s meaning in some of his statements here is a bit obscure, rather difficult to discern. His original readers no doubt understood him a bit better than we do.

We should not be surprised that some of the material in Paul’s letters is difficult. Remember what Peter said about Paul’s letters--2Pe 3:16  as also in all [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable [people] twist to their own destruction, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures.

This passage contains some of those “hard to understand” things. But I think it’s clear that Paul is talking about motivations for the ministry. These are the things that motivated Paul, and we should be motivated by them as well.

What are some motivations for the ministry?

[1] Kim Kardashian, interview in Vogue magazine, Feb 22. “I’ve Chosen Myself”: Inside Kim Kardashian’s New World, by Jen Wang.

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