During Jesus’ time on earth, he spoke strongly against focusing on behavior over the heart. Yet many of us as Christians today focus intensely on performance: doing the right things, the right way, for the right people to see. Regardless of how much we may hate it, it’s a mindset we can find ourselves having difficulty shaking. As a result, it becomes difficult at times to tell whether we’re doing the right things for the right reason, or just doing good so we don’t look bad.
These scriptures will help you reflect on your heart and motives, and inspire you to make the shift from behavior focused to heart motivated.
Behavior vs. heart
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,  “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.  So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
Matthew 23:1-4 NLT
- What are the consequences of doing the right behaviors with a bad heart?
- What are some examples of unbearable religious demands?
“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.  And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues.  They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.
Matthew 23:5-7,13 NLT
- Q: What are some signs that we’re focused more on behavior than the heart?
- Q: What kind of influence do we have on others when we’re behavior focused?
Getting Beyond Behavior (through reading and prayer)
“Examine your motives to make sure you’re not showing off when you do your good deeds, only to be admired by others; otherwise, you will lose the reward of your heavenly Father.  So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it and make a show of it just to be seen by people, like the hypocrites in the streets and in the marketplace. They’ve already received their reward!  But when you demonstrate generosity, do it with pure motives and without drawing attention to yourself.  Give secretly and your Father, who sees all you do, will reward you openly.”
Matthew 6:1-4 TPT
- How do you examine your motives?
- What’s an example of a time where you gave God credit instead of yourself?
- Deep Prayer – “Do you treat prayer like a conversation, where you speak and listen?”
- Deep Prayer – “Write down the one obstacle you must overcome to experience deep prayer.”
“Whenever you pray, be sincere and not like the pretenders who love the attention they receive while praying before others in the meetings and on street corners. Believe me, they’ve already received in full their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your innermost chamber and be alone with Father God, praying to him in secret. And your Father, who sees all you do, will reward you openly.  When you pray, there is no need to repeat empty phrases, praying like those who don’t know God, for they expect God to hear them because of their many words.  There is no need to imitate them, since your Father already knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:5-8 TPT
- What were some of your most memorable prayers?
- What are some signs that your prayer is getting superficial?