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Helping hand hindered by its fingernails

Philippa Smale takes a look at some of the Proverbs from the Bible

Sometimes people do things with mixed or wrong motives

IT was good to have a new team member to help at the food for home­less people project.

‘Could you start by peeling these spuds?’ team leader Rick asked Angie, pointing her to the sink and a huge pile of potatoes. She looked at him and then at her beautifully manicured nails. ‘Could I have another job, please?’ she asked.

‘How about sandwiches?’

Sandwich-maker Susie was delighted. ‘Margarine on first. Then ten with sand­wich spread, ten with meat, ten with jam.’ Angie thought she could manage that, but Susie had finished thirty before Angie had done her first ten.

‘You don’t need to be quite so careful about it,’ Susie pointed out. ‘Our clients aren’t fussy.’

Angie then began waiting at tables but found it impossible to chat to the clients in the friendly way the other volunteers did. Rick suggested she move on to the washing-up. Even though she wore rubber gloves and an apron, she was still worried about breaking her nails or splashing her clothes.

At the end of the morning, Rick took her to one side. ‘I don’t think your heart is really in this work,’ he said, gently. ‘Why are you here?’

‘Well, I got this application to go on a course and it asked if I did any voluntary work and if so, what. I thought I’d better do some so I could say so.’

‘You might find it a bit easier if you came here to help the clients rather than to get on a course,’ Rick told her.

As this proverb suggests, sometimes people do things with mixed or wrong motives, even if the things they do are good. They can even fool themselves or other people about what their motives are – but God knows exactly what is going on, because he can see right inside people. The point is emphasised by another Bible writer, who acknowledged in prayer to God: ‘You perceive my thoughts from afar’ (Psalm 139:2).

God knows our motives. Do we need to get them straight?

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