There are many bad reasons to be a missionary; the desire to hide-away from Western Culture, because my parents were missionaries, I don’t know what else to do, I don’t get along with my family, I don’t fit in back in my home country, I want to be known as a missionary, I want to own a big safari truck and drive fast on dirt roads, I want to be a minority, or because it is legal here to have more than one wife.
There are many good reasons to be a missionary; the desire to travel to new countries, to experience other cultures, to identify with people different from one’s self, to give back to the poor, to build churches and houses, to bring clean water to the thirsty, to provide healthcare to the poor, to teach a language are just a few good reasons that come to mind.
But I am convinced there is only one great reason to do missions. This reason looks at the motivation behind why any missionary does what they do. In the book ‘When Helping Hurts’ authors Corbert and Fikkert write...
“What truly motivates you? Do you really love poor people and want to serve them? Or do you have other motives? I confess to you that part of what motivates me to help the poor is my felt need to accomplish something worthwhile with my life, to be a person of significance, to feel like I have pursued a noble cause...and in the process, I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something.”
I know myself am guilty of motivations that are not particularly wrong (I want to live a meaningful purposeful life)....but also are not as pure as I would want them to be (I help because I care). Can I turn my motivations away from fulfilling my own needs to accomplish (not a terrible thing) to loving the people I am serving (a much better thing) on my own?
Paul writes to the Church of Corinth...
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Only the love and forgiveness of our Redeemer Jesus Christ can transform my sinful heart (which even when helping those in need is misdirected by selfish ambitions) to something new and pure (simply loving those I am with).