Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Intentions vs. Actions (a stolen topic)

A recent post on Random Magus bore the same title and generated a lot of comments. It is a topic worthy of discussion and a hate to respond with a post that is longer than the author's original. (unless we're talking about David Stone's blog, then I feel free to rant!)

If you've already read Random's post, then you can consider this my response. If you haven't, go ahead and read it. I'm sure that you'll enjoy reading the responses as well.

Side note: I've added this link to the Blogs I Frequent. You'll find posts that vary from thought provoking to humorous, some that are challenging and all that are expressed with a creativity that I've come to enjoy.

We have asked these questions often in our society. How many times have you heard it asked, "Does the end justify the means?" "Can we do whatever we want to do as long as the result is admirable?" "Is there a wrong way to do the right thing?"

In the Old Testament there is a great story of the Israelites bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. The Ark has been held by the Philistines and because of the trouble it brought to them, they have shipped it back to the Israelites. They placed it on a cart along with guilt offerings and sent it on its way. The Ark made its way back to the land of the Israelites. Later, when the Israelites where ready to transport the Ark back to Jerusalem, they built a new cart and began the journey home. On the way, the cart rocked on the rough road and when the priests touched the Ark to steady it, they were struck dead by God.(1Kings 6, 2Kings 6)

This was a case of pure intentions to bring the Ark back to the Holy City but they were disobedient because they did not follow God's law for transporting the Ark of the Covenant. Right intent, wrong action. Doing the right thing the wrong way.

In the Book of Amos, the Israelites have fallen away from God. They are no longer following His laws for living, yet they continue with the ritual sacrifices at the Temple. God recognizes that these actions are not real worship. He says, " I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listed to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream."

In this case, they were doing all of the right actions but the intent of their hearts made their actions meaningless.

Clearly both actions and intentions are important to God. As for the question, "Who is to be the judge?" I'm comfortable leaving that job to God. As I've grown older (and perhaps a little wiser) I've started to pay more attention to the part in the Bible that Jesus says that the measure by which we judge others is the same measure by which we will be judged. It makes me want to be as tolerant, as forgiving and as gracious as I can be. I hope that others (both in this life and as I stand before the final Judge) might judge me with tolerance, forgiveness and grace.


"A good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and throw into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Jesus of Nazareth

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