What’s Your Why?
Do you ever say and do things without thinking through the why? It is good to consider the why — the because — that underlies thoughts, words, and actions. We are then forced to be honest with ourselves and with God. It’s not always comfortable. It can be messy to unravel the chaos in our minds. We might see the need to repent because our focus has been on self over God. Yet it is needed.
There are two senses of “why” I’d like to think about here. These have to do with 1) our own personal motivations, and 2) our deeper understanding of why we can do anything at all.
What’s your why? I’m not talking so much about why you put on a particular shoe first or why you picked out that specific spoon for eating cereal with. I’m talking about bigger matters. Why did you respond with kindness or anger toward someone? Why did you say something inappropriate? Why did you do a good thing when you could have turned your back? There are multiple times per day when our thoughts, actions, and words have a deeper impact on others and in our attitudes. It’s not so much that we stop and ask why for every little detail of life. However, we do need to consider our motives and desires that drive our habits as they manifest themselves in our words and deeds. If we train our minds properly, the motivation will flow from the commitments we have made to do what is right.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17). This passage tells us that there needs to be embedded in our thinking an attitude that seeks to glorify God in all we say and do. That needs to be a fundamental “why” for us. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor 5:9).
Digging into our motives to know whether we are seeking to glorify God can be difficult, but it is necessary. Am I seeking to please God or self? Do I want to glorify Him or do I want the glory for myself? How we answer this changes everything. “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy — dwell on these things” (Phil 4:8).
There is another sense of “why” that goes even deeper than our personal motivations. I need to know my own personal sense of why I do and say what I do, but I also need to know the why of my existence. The fact that we have minds in the first place should be incentive enough to seek out the deeper meaning of life. To seek the true, the good, and the beautiful (as we all d0) assumes these as noble realities that can only be truly appreciated by those who can comprehend. This also assumes that these are more than mere subjective preferences. Our ultimate “because” is not grounded in brute material, for our minds are not merely chemical reactions in the grey matter of our skulls. We are more than this. We are made for more than this. We long for more than this. And we know it.
Paul captured this need for reaching out in his address at Athens. Speaking of the purpose of human beings, they were made “so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28, CSB). We are capable of thought because God made us to think. We are capable of doing good because there is a standard of good in God. We are also capable of straying from that good standard because we are free will beings. None of that would make sense from mere brute materialism. The “why” of our existence is found in God.
To connect the two senses of why, the why of my existence says something about what ought to be the why of my personal motivations. My own personal motives and incentives ought to be informed by the understanding that life is bigger than my personal desires. Why should I care about anything? Because I was made in the image of God and I need to care about others who are also made in the image of God. Why should I seek to do good? Because I was made for this by the One in whom is found the source of all that is good. Why should I love? Because it reflects the God who is love. You get the idea.
What’s your why? How will you demonstrate this today?