Rethinking Jesus: Jesus cared more about why than what

by Kyle
published February 21, 2015


Read More Looking Up

Read More Upward Glances

My hand stung a bit, but otherwise I felt really good. I had just punched my main playground rival in the face. Boy, did he have it coming. The next thing to deal with? That annoying teacher who would tell me to apologize. I didn’t want to apologize. I didn’t feel sorry. But I knew if I apologized, even if I didn’t mean it, she wouldn’t call my parents, so I just said, “Sorry.”

The teacher bought it. I did exactly what I was supposed to.

I don’t think Jesus would’ve bought it, though.

Jesus often seemed more concerned with what was going on in people’s hearts than what they did. Jesus plainly expressed his concern on several occasions. In Luke 6:45, he said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” When questioned about the ceremonial practices of his disciples, Jesus said, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man (Matthew 15:11).”

Why we do things is more important to Jesus than what we do. Being leads to doing, not the other way around.

Consider the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Six times, Jesus said, “You have heard it was said ... but I say to you ...” Each time, Jesus raises the bar on a familiar commandment by addressing what goes on in the heart. Murder? Anger and writing other people off is just as bad. Adultery? Ogling that jogger on the side of the road or replacing the actor or actress in that movie with yourself is just as bad. Love your friends? Love your enemies and pray for them. In the next chapter, Jesus talks about prayer being in secret. Even the way we treat our enemies has to start in the heart.

Consider the woman at the well in John 4. She had a religious behavior question: Where is the right physical place to worship? Jesus had a heart answer, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. ‘God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:23-24).” It doesn’t matter where you worship God. It matters why you worship. Is your heart truly worshiping the God of the universe who made you, or are you going through the motions to assuage a religious obligation for another 168 hours? What’s going on in your heart will certainly lead to what we do, but it has to start in the heart.

What about the rich young ruler in Mark 10? A wealthy young man comes to Jesus and asks him how to get to heaven. Jesus tells him to just follow the commandments. Outward behavior is not a problem for this guy. “I have kept all these things from my youth up (Mark 10:20).”

All his good works are irrelevant to the condition of his heart. Jesus exposes this when he says, “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me (Mark 10:21).” What we all require is a change in heart, not a change in behavior.

On the other hand, when a woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus in John 8, something happened in her heart when she was face-to-face with the ultimate judge of the world, her faith shifted toward him, which is why he said, “I do not condemn you, either.” Don’t forget, though, he also told her in the same verse, “Sin no more (John 8:11).” Jesus wanted the reality of his limitless grace and forgiveness to inform what she did for the rest of her life instead of religious obligation or a vague sense of morality.

So how’s your heart? What motivates what you do? Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).” We are obviously able to do something on our own, but it does no lasting good. What we do apart from Jesus is so useless we might as well have not done it at all. The good news, though, is that Jesus can change our hearts. Faith in Jesus is the only way our hearts can be changed. He has changed the hearts of tax collectors, murderers, liars, cheats and jerks. He’s still changing mine. What about yours?

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.