When it came to the holidays, he didn’t have the best Christmas spirit? He vacuumed up presents; he stole Christmas wreaths; he broke Christmas ornaments; he even ate all the roast beast.
What was his motive for all of this?
"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.”
The Grinch saw that the Whos were happy. He saw that they enjoyed Christmas. He saw that Cindy Lou Who really wanted to see that Christmas tree up in the morning filled with toys.
But he didn’t care. He was motivated by selfishness.
Today we are continuing our sermons series called A Simple Christmas and we are going to talk about motive. Motives are huge. Motives affect everything you do. Motives determine your actions.
We are going to look at God’s Word and at the end of this I want you to be able to list (1) some bad Christmas motives; (2) God’s motives at the first Christmas and (3) come up with one simple motive for all of your holiday needs.
I. Selfishness Disguised as Christmas Platitudes
Take a look at James 3 to get our mind focused on some bad holiday motives. James writes in verse 14 “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” This is a pretty simple interpretation isn’t it? Envy is bad, selfishness is bad. Neither one of them are godly traits. No one writes on a Christmas card, “Merry Christmas to the most selfish person I know.” No one introduces their girlfriend at the office party, “Ted, this is Mary my girlfriend. She’s really selfish.”
Selfishness isn’t a good motive.
Which is why it is so amazing how so many secular motives find their root in utter selfishness. Take a look at a few.
1) Because It Makes Me Feel Merry.
This was the Grinch’s problem. He only did what made him feel good – which was destroying Christmas. Literally destroying Christmas.
Granted – you probably don’t desire to destroy Christmas. Am I right? Anyone want to raise their hand and admit to taking joy in seeing inflatable reindeer popped and little children crying? I didn’t think so.
But sometimes our desires for “I feel good” Christmas, makes others feel bad.
- “This Christmas, I’m going to drink way too much spiked eggnog. Sure, I might say things that hurt others, but I’ll feel good."
- “I’m going to the holiday party and then I’m going to sleep with my boyfriend that I’m not married to. It might ruin our relationship and I won’t trust him because he isn’t committed, but it’ll feel good."
- “I’m not going to spend time with family this Christmas. They might be hurt, but I’ll feel good."
- "I see no reason in spending money on my wife. She will definitely be hurt, but my wallet will feel good."
2) Because I Don't Want People to Think I'm the Grinch.
This one is sounds nice, right? But look at the heart of the message. It's goal is not being the Grinch, but not wanting others to think I am the Grinch -- even though I might be.
This whole motivation is selfish. It's all about looking good.
As a result, – it’s hard to identify. Because the whole point of this motive is to hide it’s bad motive. The goal is to look like St. Nick and to never have anyone call you The Grinch.
This motive may even get you doing nice things, but for all the wrong reasons.
- Do you load the gifts under the tree so you can take photos and Instagram your friends about how great a parent you are?
- Do you stop at the Salvation Army bucket, make a big announcement that, “I left my bigger bills in my other wallet,” and slam the change into the bucket so that the lady in line behind you can hear how big of a donation you just made?
- Do you put up your Christmas lights because you love to hear your neighbors compliments?
- Do you come to church, not to worship your Savior, but to show me, your pastor, how good of a person you really are?
3) Because I want my My Kid(s) to Love Me.
This one is tricky. It seems nice at first. We all have a longing to “roast chestnuts on an open fire” with family and to “Deck the Halls with kids.” It is especially nice to have your child saying, “I love you,” rather than, “I hate you.”
But there is a distinct difference between doing things “because I want my kids to love me” and doing things “because I love my kids.” One is selfish; one is selfless. One may cause you to spend a few mortgage payments at Toys ‘R Us; the other will avoid spoiling your kids amid cries of ‘unfair’ because you love them and want them to be less materialistic.
Which are you this Christmas?
- Do you buy them the Bumblebee Transformer without your spouses permission, because you want them to like you a little better?
- Do you send a gift to your kid at college because you can’t wait to get a Thank You text?
- Do you get upset with your grown kids if they don’t write a thank you in the mail, because you didn’t get a chance to feel good about yourself?
Are you unsure if you have good motives or not? Go back with me to James. Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. Did you catch that? Selfishness results in disorder. Selfishness destroys peace.
That’s easy to see. If two kids want a Christmas cookie, what happens? They whine. They complain. They put each other in headlocks. They play mom and dad against each other. They might even bite, scratch, or pinch. Selfishness leads to disorder. If you hear your children fighting in the other room, you have a pretty good idea before you even go in there, that someone is being selfish.
Same is true for adults.
Is there disorder in your family? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Are your spouse and you not getting along? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Do you fight with your parents? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Do you have an inflammatory text message relationship with your coworkers? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Are you a human being? You might (and probably do) have a problem with selfishness.
II. God’s Simple Motives
Do you want to know someone who did not have a very selfish motive? John the Baptist. John the Baptist lived in the desert. John the Baptist ate locusts. John the Baptist grew a long and wild beard. John the Baptist wore itchy, scratchy camel's skin. John the Baptist kind of sounds like one of the most unapproachable and strangest men in the history of the world.
But that wasn’t the strangest part about him. That belongs to his words. He spoke harsh words of rebuke – even if it made him feel uncomfortable, even if it caused others to not love him, even if it didn’t make him look good.
You heard some of his words earlier. He said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is here!” He called people sinners. He told them what they were doing was sinful.
Do people usually respond well to that? Not so much.
Do you usually respond well to that? Not so much, huh? It’s way easier to write them off as the words of some "crazy guy.”
- God Wants You to be Pure.
But John’s words were not the words of some crazy guy. John’s Words were God’s words and they reveal one of God’s motives in his interactions with humanity.
Take a look at the prophecy from Malachi 3. “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” That’s talking about John. He was God’s messenger. His words were to get people to repent. Literally, “To turn from selfishness to seeking God.”
And if John’s words didn’t work? If someone ignored his calls to repentance? No worries. God would be coming to finish the job. Malachi continues “Suddenly the Lord…will come to his temple…And who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.”
Refining is something you do with gold. The fire of a gold refinery needs to be 1947 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot. It needs to be that hot in order to get rid of all the impurities that you might find on gold and silver. It burns off all of the smudges. It vaporizes all of the imperfection. It leaves the nugget shiny and in mint condition.
The launder’s soap is similar. It’s not just supposed to cover bad smells and mask the stench of the pets, but it actually, literally cleans all of the impurities. It connects with them, affixes to them, and destroys them. It leaves the garment clean and free of germs.
God is like that. He hates dirty. He hates sin. He hates selfishness. He hates it so much that he promises that he will purify his people.
If the repentance thing doesn’t work and selfishness infused itself onto your soul, such that you are now indistinguishable from your sin…he will purify you. He will burn you up like chaff. He will vaporize you like the impurities of gold. He will disinfect you from his people by wiping you out.
It’s better to repent, right?
2. God Wants You to be Saved
But God isn’t just a neat freak. He isn’t just about sanitization. He isn’t just about holiness. If he were, then he would have pulverized you, me – all of humanity a long time ago.
But there’s a second motive of God at work. A motive that is at work when John’s call to repentance reaches our ears. A motive that isn’t selfish at all. A motive that’s completely selfless.
“All mankind will see the salvation of our God.” Jn. 3:6
Did you see that? God hasn’t destroyed you yet, because He has as powerful motive right alongside the last motive. “He wants you to see his salvation.” He wants you to believe his salvation. He wants you to be saved.
This is the mystery of our God. He is completely holy and desires holiness from us, threatening punishment for all who are unholy. But at the same time, God loves us – he loves us in spite of our selfishness.
Where do this holiness and love meet? On the cross.
On the cross, God satisfies his holy rage. He wipes out all of our selfish desires.
At the same time, God shows his love. Jesus died for us. Jesus saves you. He saves us.
Talk about a selfless motive? Jesus didn’t do any of the impure things. Jesus didn’t deserve to be punished. Yet he was. He went through pain on the cross because his motive was saving you.
III. A Simple NEW Motive
Do you see how much God loves you?
Would you allow God’s Word to suggest two new motives this Christmas?
“Prepare the way for the Lord.” (Luke 3:4)
To do this, picture your heart like a construction zone. Not a government construction zone – I’m not asking you to stand around on your shovels sipping coffee. A real deal – on the move construction zone. Rocks need to be removed. The ground needs to be leveled. Concrete needs to be poured. A pathway needs to be laid.
Do just that, only spiritually.
Remove selfish desires. Flatten your pride. Knock down the desires of your sinful flesh. Make a smooth, clear path for the coming of your Lord and Savior.
Make that part of your motive this holiday season. Do what you do to prepare the way for the Lord.
But please, couple that guidance from God’s law with this Gospel motivation: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:19)
Everything you do this Christmas season, do it simply, because Jesus loves you.
Spend time with your family, because Jesus loves you.
Make Christmas cookies, because Jesus loves you.
Decorate your house, because Jesus loves you.
Forgive your spouse, because Jesus loves you.
Make amends with your family, because Jesus loves you.
Avoid sin, because Jesus loves you.
Come to church, because Jesus loves you.
Tell others about Jesus, because Jesus loves you.
Shout, “Joy to the world” because Jesus loves you.
May this simple motive be on your heart, now and always. Amen.