What do I mean by “why matters”? Simply this, the reason or purpose behind doing something (the why) is as important as the doing itself. We understand this in the secular world. Would it be OK if your spouse married you, not for love, but for your money? Is it acceptable for an employee to show up to work every day, but do nothing but chum with co-workers, spend time on social media and play games on the computer? A parent gives gifts to their children, not simply for the sake of giving, but as a bribe to cause obedience. Someone helps you in a time of need, but rather than being charitable about it, makes it clear that you are indebted to them. There are numerous examples we could consider where people may do something that is good in and of itself (get married, go to work, give gifts, help the needy), but do so from the wrong motives or for the wrong reasons. Why matters.
Why matters when it comes to religious things.
Preaching the gospel
Paul spoke about some who preach the gospel “…from envy and strife… selfish ambition, not sincerely…” (Philippians 1:15-16). Don’t mistake Paul’s rejoicing that Christ is preached “…whether in pretense or in truth…” (18) as approval of those who preach Christ from selfish motives. Those who do so are exercising the works of the flesh, and “…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21). Why matters.
Our service to the Lord and in the name of the Lord is spoken of throughout the New Testament. We are called to do good works, to oppose evil, to show the love and patience of God, etc.. Why we do all this is as important as doing it. The first of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation was sent to Ephesus. In it, the Lord commended them for their “works …labor …patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil” (Revelation 2:2). He goes on to say that they had “…labored for My name’s sake and not become weary” (2:3). As good as this all sounds, notice verse 4: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Their what was right, their why was wrong. Was that a big deal to the Lord? Verse 5 says they had fallen, that they needed to repent, and if they didn’t, the Lord would remove their lampstand (ie. they would no longer be His). Why matters.
The Bible encourages us to pray. Paul commends prayer to us, acknowledging that God wants to hear our requests, and that we can find peace by coming before the throne of grace (Philippians 4:6-7). However, why we pray is important. James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Why matters.
The need for us to give of our means is addressed several times in the Bible. The early Christians sold their goods so they could minister to the needs of others (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 6:1-6; etc.). Not only did they do so for their local brethren, but for Christians in other areas also, as they had opportunity (Acts 11:29; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; etc.). In 2 Corinthians 9:5-8 the apostle speaks of our attitude towards giving. He contrasts phrases like “…generous gift … bountifully … purposes in his heart … cheerful giver…” with “…grudging obligation … sparingly … grudgingly or of necessity…” The spirit in which we give, our reason or purpose for giving – the why of our giving, is important. Why matters.
The Lord’s Supper
Each first day of the week, God’s people come together to break bread (Acts 20:7). It is an opportunity to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us at Calvary. Paul warns those who eat and drink “…in an unworthy manner…” stating that they are “…guilty of the body and blood of the Lord…” and that such a one “…drinks judgment to himself…” (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). It is not enough for us to just eat a piece of bread and drink a sip of grape juice. We need to do so in a worthy manner, in remembrance of Jesus, proclaiming His death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Why matters.
That we are to assemble together with God’s people is evident from Scripture. We see the example of the early church assembling regularly (Acts 2:42, 46-47; 5:42; 19:9-10; 20:7; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25). However, it is possible for us to be at every assembly, but not be there for the right reason. We are to gather to hear about the work of God (Acts 14:27), for worship and to encourage our fellow brethren (1 Corinthians 14:26). Unfortunately, there are some who do not focus on the purpose for assembling, but only see the gathering of the church as a social thing, or do so out of habit, but not with a view towards praising God and edifying others. Why matters.
It is commonly taught in the religious world that believers should be baptized. Some fail to teach truth when it comes to how baptism is performed, teaching that sprinkling or pouring is as acceptable as immersion. It is not. God’s word reveals that baptism is a burial (Romans 6:3-4). In fact, the Greek word baptizo, from which we get our English word, means to submerge or to whelm with water. But even if we get the how correct, it is also important that we get the why right. Most religious groups (I hesitate to set a percentage on it – but it is a huge percentage) teach that baptism is a good thing, it is right to do, but that it has nothing to do with salvation. Rather, it is taught that folks are saved by “faith alone,” by saying a “sinner’s prayer,” by “receiving the Lord into your heart,” and then you are baptized sometime afterward. Those who teach such things have failed to understand the purpose of baptism. Hear the apostle Peter, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38; cf. Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; John 3:3, 5; Titus 3:5; etc.). Have you been baptized? Great! Why were you baptized? Why matters.