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Courtesy of NBC News

ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge: God Knows My Motives

by jpack, August 22, 2014
Courtesy of NBC News

Crazy people doing crazy things. My response to a challenge included at the bottom of this article.

Even though I deleted my Facebook account, I still manage the Facebook account for our church which requires me to log on so I can make updates to the various ministry ‘Fan Pages’. In the split second between Facebook loading and me click on the ‘Pages’ admin button, I saw an interesting video for the ALS Challenge. If you don’t know what this challenge is, it’s a viral awareness and fundraising campaign where you can either (a) donate $100 towards ALS research or (b) donate $10 and pour a bucket of cold water over your head {a lot of people seem to be forgetting the $10 donation with option (b), but that’s a whole different issue}. As you might imagine, many people prefer option (b) since it gives them an excuse to record a crazy video and post it online… and it’s also a lot cheaper.

The video I saw was of a young lady and husband (I assumed) holding the large ‘ice-bucket’ that we have become accustomed to in these sorts of vides. However, instead of having the bucket poured over her head, she starts removing signs out of the bucket that say (paraphrased): ‘I’ve decided that ALS needs my money to combat this horrible disease more than a video of me pouring water on my head for “likes”.’

Wow… bold move.

I have to admit that there is a very practical reason why people choosing option (b) are still doing a good thing. There is very little doubt in my mind that the ALS Association knew full-well that the overwhelming majority of participants would chose to only donate $10 and film a crazy video versus just cutting a $100 check. The genius in this strategy is that they wanted the campaign to go viral so that instead of getting a few dozen $100 checks through less ostentatious (there’s your ‘big word’ for the day) means, they would get a couple THOUSAND $10 checks and raise awareness at the same time. In this respect, our young lady and her significant other have missed the point a bit and probably caught quite a bit of flak for being overly ‘judgy’.

Still, they raise a good general point, especially if we look at it under the lenses of a follower of Christ. The other night I was talking to our students about ‘living in the world but not of it’ as covered in Romans 2:12…

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 2:12 ESV, Source: Bible Hub)

A tangent took us in a bit of a different direction from what you normally talk about when these verses pop up. Some of the students started talking about ‘good behavior’ that they do for… lets say… less than pure motives. One actually mentioned acting nice to bullies because they knew that it would irritate the bully even more. I commended them for responding to hate with love, but also encouraged them to look at their heart.

Paul has an interesting interaction with the people in Macedonia where he explains the motives of his actions during his previous visits…

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else. (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)

Notice that the emphasis Paul places is on his heart rather than on the reaction he thought he might get out of others. What Paul is articulating is that his behavior and his actions were not motivated by who might see him or how that person might feel.  He was motivated by what he thought would please God and bring God glory.  Personally, I think we’ve gotten really good at doing things to please people, or get a reaction out of people, while claiming that we’re somehow “serving God”. It’s pretty Pharisaical behavior (another one of those big words).  Remember that ‘our God is a jealous God’ (Deuteronomy 4:24).  What that means is that He wants 100% of who we are.  If we are going to undertake something in our lives, simply saying “well… it’s mostly for God” kind of misses the point.  We have to be contstantly self-examining ourselves and asking whether we are doing things because we want to serve and glorify God in all we do, or whether we are acting for more self-serving reasons.

When I see things like the ALS ice-bucket challenge, I don’t really see it as some abomination of Christian hypocrisy or anything like that; it’s just a harmless and fun awareness campaign for a worthy charity. At the same time, as a believer I have to be careful that when I participate in ‘charitable events’ that I search the motives of my heart and ask myself whether I am giving cheerfully to share love and please God, or if there is a part of me that is doing it just to get a few more “Likes” on Facebook.  God knows the motives of my heart and I owe it to Him to keep those motives pure.


All of this said, it has come to my attention that a couple of aspiring students have challenged me to participate in the ALS ice-bucket challenge.  Being the difficult individual I am, I can’t just ‘accept’ it because that would be too simple.  Here is my counter-challenge:

Bowling Green Student Ministries, raise at least $100 for ALS research.  If you raise that much, I will match the $100 and let all who donated pour a nice chilly bucket of ice water on me from on top of the fire-escape behind the church.

I’m calling your bluff. 

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