Sunday, January 21, 2007

Intentions...what are they good for...?

My friend Erica posted awhile back (Jan 3) in part about intentions counting for something.

Judi commented about intentions being a starting point and that we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss them.

I think I'm gonna say "yes and no" in no particular order. Here's why:

Matthew 21: 28"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

29" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

31"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.


James 4:17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

I will have to agree that intentions are a starting point. But in the end I don't think they actually count for anything. I may intend to get to the store, make the reservation, call the contractor, etc. But if I don't do it my family still is hungry, has nowhere to go on holidays, and the roof will continue to have ice dams. That result will happen regardless of my intentions. They are a starting place, but if you don't actually act on them then they don't really matter, IMO. Now, if you don't have them at any time you also won't act on them - so they are a step, but a step with no value unless the next step is taken. Irrelevant.

Now, Jesus talks about the attitude of the heart being important - essential even:

Matthew 5: 27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'

28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

So... we can sin without actually DOING something - taking action, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we can do good without actually doing something. Intentions, it seems, only have value when they are followed through with action.

Yeah, I know it sounds harsh. Graceless even. I know that God sees my intentions and my desire to do good. He also knows that when I fail to follow through that such is exactly what the blood of Jesus covers. I've looked. I haven't found anywhere in scripture where it says that the intentions of my heart are enough. If good intentions were enough - we wouldn't need said blood.

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22For in my inner being I delight in God's law;

23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

25Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now that's not to say that good works can't come out of a badly oriented heart either:

Matthew 7: 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'

23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Oh, and I've had this running through my head a lot while thinking on this topic:

John 8:32 "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (the context of this verse has to do with knowing the truth about who Jesus is and believing what He claimed about Himself.)

I couldn't help but think that it doesn't say anywhere that good intentions will set us free. Not good works or good tries, not wanting to do what's right... but truth. True truth. Verifiable truth. Objective truth. Truth that is not from within us, but from outside.

But I digress... Truth is a topic for another day.