Why Do We Do What We Do?
You have reasons for everything you do. But where do they come from? And who decides whether they are legitimate?
Do you remember Robbie James1?" my mom recently wrote me. "He is now a State Trooper in Wayne County. He made a stop Friday night on Rt. 21 and the guy wouldn’t roll his window down more than an inch. He showed Robbie his license but wouldn’t give it to him. He kept talking about his constitutional rights.
"To make a long story short, he drove away and Robbie chased him. He stopped again and revealed a gun in the front seat. Robbie backed off, and the guy drove away again. By this time they were nearing Massillon, and Robbie had Massillon police back up. The guy stopped, rolled out of his car, and started shooting. He killed a Massillon police officer. The other officers, including Robbie, opened fire and killed the perpetrator. The police officer who was killed had a wife and small children.
"The perpetrator was around 60 years old with no record of arrests or anything on his record. However, he belongs to a strange organization (they say they aren’t militia, but rather a church that believes they should live by the Bible’s rules, not man’s). They don’t believe State Troopers have any right or authority and don’t believe they should have to hand over their driver’s license."
I won’t go into the many Scripture passages such a "church" violates with that kind of lawless doctrine. The issue at hand is, do you think that misguided murderer had a reason for what he did? Of course he did! It was a good enough reason to die for, in his mind. So just because I disagree with someone else’s actions—or even when I know he is completely wrong—it doesn’t mean the person acted without thinking about it first. He had a reason.
A few years ago, I was struck with what I thought was a profound personal truth: I can give you a reason for anything I do, from scratching my elbow ("It itches."), to reading a book ("I’m interested in this topic."), to buying a certain car ("It’s cheap and the whole family fits in it."). This is the same as saying that I can justify what I’m doing. Conversely, I never do anything unless I have a good reason.
Recently the foolishness of my thinking on this topic has become clear to me. Why does that which seemed so profound a few years ago seem clearly foolish now? I think there are two legitimate answers to that question:
- Everybody has reasons for everything he does.
I used to look at people who did something foolish or crazy and wonder what in the world their reason for doing it could have been. Then I concluded that they must not have had a reason. "Hmph! I always have a reason for everything I do!"
- Just because I can think of a reason for it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.
I can justify something in my own mind, but does that make it right? The man who shot the State Trooper felt justified in his actions because of his church’s teachings.
The human mind is very capable of being deceived by others—and of tremendous self-deception too. Jeremiah 17:9 states, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" That doesn’t apply just to other people; it applies to me too!
Having a reason for what I do isn’t enough. I need to have a Bible reason for what I do (or don’t do). If I don’t have a clear Bible reason, then I need to be aware that I could be wrong.
I used to look forward to getting older in the faith and conquering my penchant for sin. You know what? It doesn’t work that way. I’m more aware of my heart’s sinfulness and its desire for its own ways—self-confidence, self-assertion, self-sufficiency—than ever before. That’s why I look forward to heaven more and more. I realize I’m never going to get rid of my sinfulness in this life, and that’s the way God designed it. Every day I need to ask the Lord’s help to have wisdom when I clash with another person. We both have a reason for our point of view. But what is the scriptural principle involved?<
Could it be, possibly, that I’m wrong?
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. Proverbs 12:15
About Steve Skaggs
Steve Skaggs serves as the Product Development Manager for BJU Press.