Philippians 1:18 Question


Bret,

You recently preached quoting this verse from Phillipians 1:18. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Can Paul's rationale be applied to other Christian endeavors as well? For instance, in my political science courses, I learned that foreign aid is given as a tool of diplomacy so that favors/paybacks can be obtained later on. Obviously, the important thing is that aid is given (i.e. to impoverished people). But Paul seems to excuse the false motives behind the act, which, in this case of foreign aid, might mean that the giver is merely buying power/influence.


ANSWER:

That is a good question. I would note a few things.

First, I would be careful about applying principles to situations other than the ones envisioned in the Scripture. We know how Paul responded to people preaching Christ from false motives, that does not mean we know how he would respond to political situations, family situations, business situations, etc. This caution must especially be practiced when moving from how things are done in and by the church in Scripture, to how things are being done in and by government. Extrapolation may be possible, but it is not necessarily possible, and it must be done very carefully.
Second, I would note that there is a difference between rejoicing at the good and excusing false motives. Paul is not really excusing the motives since he is exposing them in the very verse you mentioned. However, he is not letting the bad motives negate the good actions that are being done, especially since the good activity is proclaiming Christ so that people have a chance to be saved.

Third, I would note that in a fallen world, political leaders will always have mixed and impure motives. No political activities, no matter how pure they may seem, will ever be done without some impurity in motives. To think they could be is to vastly underestimate the effects of the fall and the corrupting nature of sin. Yet, this does not mean that these same actions are not also partly done out of pure motives. Certainly some people in the process will really desire to help people, and most people involved in aid projects will sincerely have a desire to help those in need.

Finally, I would say that we might extrapolate out from these things a possible response. I would rejoice at the good being done (giving aid to the desperately poor that really need it). I would not be overly cynical. Some think that our government always is driven by ulterior motives and really does not desire to help people. This strikes me as an overly simplistic view of human nature and the complexities of politics. However, while we support the good actions, it is proper to question why something is being done, especially if we have evidence of ulterior motives. We can thank those helping others for what is being done, while continuing to encourage the right things to be done for the right reason.

Thanks for the great question. These type of things are always difficult and will require us to think and consistently seek God for how best to respond. That is the joy and difficulty of Christian living in a fallen world.