(A) Without admixture.

On the whole we do not use the word 'pure' to mean 'clean'. Sheets that have been in the wash emerge clean and, perhaps, pure white. We reserve the term 'pure' for something like a colour that can be tainted by admixture. We do not speak of pure sheets, floors or windows but we do speak of pure air, water or gold because these are substances that can be adulterated. So what is it about the heart that can be adulterated? Surely it is the motives from which actions spring.

A pure heart is one from which worthy actions proceed from uniformly good motives. It is no accident that the bliss of the pure in heart follows on from the blessedness of the kind. A kind deed may well spring from a mixture of motives. I may visit a dying man because I feel sorry for him and hope to cheer him up but also because I desire to be well thought of by his influential family.

It seems likely that most good actions will, in part, be prompted by a sense of their rightness. Unfortunately it is difficult to ensure that no base motives creep in. Impure water does contain water, plenty of it, but, sadly, the smallest trace of pollutant renders it noxious.

(B) Does motive matter?

C.S.Lewis used an illustration to question the importance of motive. We are asked to imagine two doctors on a desert island - one doesn't love his patients but is competent; the other loves his patients very much but is incompetent. Lewis asks: to whom will the majority of the islanders go for treatment? The conclusion we are expected to draw is that the inhabitants will want to get better and value competence regardless of motive. I do not think this is always the case - because some conditions are not curable.

During my boyhood our family doctor was Old Wilky He was greatly feared for his cavalier performance with the needle. Nobody liked being injected by Old Wilky - he had what was known as a stabbing technique. However, he knew his patients. One fateful morning I took my father to Wilky's surgery. He greeted us in high good humour. When my father rose to his feet the old doctor's face underwent a transformation. He turned almost as grey and haggard as my father. I knew immediately that my father was very ill. Indeed, his condition was incurable. But the pain in the doctor's eyes was also a comfort. I knew from the concern writ large upon his face that old Wilky cared and was involved in our predicament. I realised that I could trust him to do his best for my father. My judgement was sound for only the caring doctor takes much interest in the hopeless case. The dying man needs help to live until the curtain is finally brought down. Professional competence is no match then for empathy, compassion, sympathy, gentleness and affection. The night my mother died of a heart attack I phoned for a doctor to certify her death. A lady doctor, a locum, arrived. I had never seen her before nor since - but I shall always remember her sitting for several minutes beside my poor old father just holding his hand in silent sympathy. There was no doubting that for a space of time she was one of the pure in heart.

There are occasions when only the pure in heart will do. If Jonathan's armour bearer had been asked what motivated his loyal service to the prince he might have replied, "To put it in a word: admiration." A cynic in the Israelite army might mutter, "I don't think so. What counts is status, privilege and money." A day came when Jonathan decided that he and his armour bearer would take on a Philistine garrison together. The cynic was proved wrong when the armour bearer exhibited full confidence in his lord saying, "Do all that you have in mind, go ahead; I am with you heart and soul." 1Sam14v7.

Jonathan knew that his armour bearer was devoted to him and utterly dependable. He could be relied upon however hazardous the undertaking because he was pure in heart. There are some tasks that God will only ask the pure hearted to do. Jesus, himself, instructs Peter, "If you truly love me - feed my sheep." See John21vs15to18.

(C) Motive mattered to Jesus

Jesus warned of at least three impurities of motive. First there is the fear of offending the people who matter. This is well illustrated in the story of the temple tax in Matthew17v24to27. One day two professional collectors called at Jesus' house in Capernaum and when Peter had the misfortune to open the door they asked him belligerently, "Doesn't your Master pay the temple tax?" Peter instantly responds, "Yes." Jesus was very cross. Peter was aiming to keep in with the establishment. What had started out as a free will offering to God had gradually become an imposition. Jesus tells Peter that God's children give gladly out of love not legally under restraint. Jesus then addresses Peter with great irony. He says, in effect, that if they are going to make a contribution to the temple just to avoid offending the religious establishment it is as well to get the money with the minimum of effort, as the giving of it will be worthless. If Peter likes to go and cast his hook into the lake the temple tax will be found in the mouth of the first fish caught! It is a pity to miss the point of what Jesus is saying because of a failure to recognise the irony of his remarks.

Fear of giving offence is a curse. I can remember my mother putting a glass of water in the pulpit for the visiting speaker each Sunday morning. It was a half-pint mug! One preacher happened to remark that it was a strange shaped glass to find in the pulpit of a Grace Baptist Church. By the next Sunday the mug had mysteriously disappeared! Was my mother mad!

Over and over again in all walks of life, including the life of the church, people do not oppose what they know is wrong for fear of causing offence. What is even worse, they do not support the lone dissident with whom they agree in case they, too, get a reputation for being difficult. When the Pharisees approached Jesus with their trick question about paying taxes to Caesar they prefaced their question with what was unquestionably a genuine tribute, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are." Mt22v16.

Secondly there is the desire to impress others. Jesus reserved some of his most scathing comments for the Pharisees. He said, "Everything they do is done for men to see. They make their phylacteries wide and tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them Rabbi" Mt23v5.

The love of greetings at conferences and special meetings still afflicts certain ministers and church leaders. You can see them basking in their popularity and oozing satisfaction at being so well known. I used to like hearing my school pupils call out, "Good morning, Mr Reed," for much the same reason.

The desire to be popular or loved is a great weakness in leaders. It results in unprincipled action, injustices and spiteful behaviour. I think the best head master that I ever worked for was my first - simply because he was not concerned about being loved by anybody! He made life easy for his staff because he took all the unpopular decisions. Such antagonism as there was in the school focused upon him. R.W.Elliot was not loved by his pupils nor by his staff but he was feared and respected by all. Those who want to be loved expect to be loved. It is quite shocking how vindictive and spiteful they can be when their expectations are not realised. Beware of the jolly, avuncular, man who longs to be loved - so often his besetting sin is spite.

Very few people received Jesus' unreserved commendation but a certain poor widow did. See Luke21v1to4. The woman had so little to give that she did not even try to impress God - but she succeeded - unlike those who gave showily of their superfluity. The widow gave her last, small, meal to God from a pure heart and the treasure she laid up in heaven was beyond the counting.

Thirdly a good act can be partially motivated by the desire to earn a favour. When I was a boy my mother had a small insurance policy which an agent for Pearl collected each month. He was very friendly with my brothers and I. Sometimes he would leave us a small present like an old football programme. When I started work he asked me if I would like to take out a policy with Pearl. I did - and I still have policies with the same company forty years later. Alf was kind to me but his motives were mixed. I do not wish to disparage him. He was a decent, Christian, man and only doing his job. But he was doing his job. He was throwing bread upon the waters.

It is easy to forget what Jesus said to a prominent Pharisee who invited him out to lunch, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Not many live by this principle - but some do. One evening as I was driving my mother and her friend, Ruth, to chapel I listened as they discussed the foolishness of Alice. Alice had ne'er-do-well neighbours - an indolent young couple who survived on social security. They did nothing for themselves and certainly nothing for Alice. Their home was a tip. Unaccountably Alice felt sorry for them and kept baking them cakes - not that she received much thanks. Foolish Alice; yes as foolish as the man who throws a party and invites as guests only those too poor to organise themselves a party.

The pure in heart do not live by the rule: scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

(D) A vision of God

What happiness to see God. The Pharisees pleaded with Jesus to show them a sign to validate his ministry. See Matthew12v38. They implied that their commitment to his cause was hindered for want of a sign. This is a familiar cry today. We are told, "I would like to follow Jesus but please show me a sign. If you could only make God real to me then I would believe. Give me an experience like Paul on the road to Damascus and I would become a Christian." There is little sincerity in such requests. They are not made from a pure heart. The Pharisees had no intention of becoming disciples of Jesus but they wanted to blame him for it! They were in the best position to see God - he was there amongst them - but their false hearts blinded them to him. Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Mt7v7and8. It is undeniably true that anyone who sincerely desires to enter a relationship with Jesus, can. He is there to be found. Jesus says, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" John6v37.

It is possible to see God in the Scriptures. A word of caution; during Jesus' temptation Satan boldly asserts,"For it is written..." Mt4v6. The Bible is still used like this. Men go to it for proof texts - to buttress their own point of view or a doctrinal position that they have adopted. These are impure motives and nothing but harm ensues. We need to come to God's word with a pure heart and an open mind if we are to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit and see God within its pages.

There are times in our lives when we need God to tell us what to do. He will only do so if we are genuinely perplexed and haven't made up our minds before consulting him. We will not see what God wants us to do if we make up our own mind and then ask God to agree with us. Those who honestly seek God's will so often get an answer from his word. Some time ago I considered whether I should leave my church. Things had not been going well. I did not, and do not, agree with the doctrinal basis of the Association of churches to which we belong. Perhaps it would be best for all concerned if I left. However I did not make up my mind. I asked God for guidance. Eventually it came as I was preparing a message on a passage in Acts and reading Warren Wiersbe's little commentary for assistance. He referred to some rather neglected verses in 1Cor7v17to24. I looked them up and found Paul's advice particularly helpful in my circumstances: Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to. v24. I knew then what God wished me to do and was at peace.

It is a wonderful blessing to see God at work in our Christian service. David, as he made preparations for the building of the temple could say, "I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you." 1Chron29v17. David's motive for building the temple was pure. He gave of his own resources willingly and with honest intent. His reward was to see God at work in his people who also gave freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David rejoiced.

Christian's motives for service are not invariably pure. W.E. Gladstone worked for many years among London's prostitutes. He got into this work whilst a student at Cambridge. It seems a group of Christian students drew lots to decide what type of charitable work they would specialise in. This was an entirely inappropriate way to proceed! W.E. Gladstone was not suited to work with prostitutes. He was so highly sexed that he had to leave a room in which there was an attractive woman. Gladstone's motives for continuing in this work were suspect because the women he helped were almost entirely pretty and operated in the less unpleasant parts of London. God kept Gladstone from fornication and adultery but he had absolutely no success in his mission to help fallen women. Not one was converted. What a contrast to the great, 'Lion of God', who said on the road to Damascus, "What shall I do, Lord?" Acts22v10. From that moment Paul did what Jesus wanted and saw God at work in converting the Gentiles.

Recently I attended a special service to celebrate fifty years of working with children at Pioneer Camp. I had worked for twenty years at this Christian camp as the disreputable sports organiser. I was interested in the testimony of a Suffolk farmer, Tom Havers. Many years ago he had been asked if he could store the Pioneer Camp equipment. He did this willingly. However it also meant that he was asked to transport it to distant locations for the camping season. This he undertook with some reluctance because it usually coincided with his busiest time of year - harvest. As he said in his testimony, "I didn't want it; not until I attended a Youth Rally led by Pastor Brian Brown of Horham." At this meeting Pastor Brown encouraged a group of young people to give their testimonies. At least three of them said that they had been converted at Pioneer Camp. Tom Havers said, "That changed everything for me. I suddenly realised what I was involved with: not just a holiday for young people but a holiday for young people amongst whom God was at work." Most of the Christians who served with Pioneer Camp did so because they wanted to see children converted - and it was such a wonderful experience to see God at work changing lives.

(E) Conclusion: don't be too hard on yourself.

It is easy to despair of doing good from pure motives. It is hard not to see certain selfish advantages in doing what is worthy. However I think the important motive is the one that actually brings about the worthwhile action. Some years ago I debated with myself whether to make a small contribution towards my pastor's new car. Now such a gesture would do my reputation for generosity no harm with the pastor. Possibly I wished to increase my influence over him. I can honestly say that my love of money was too great for these motives to have actually got me to hand over the cash. What did? At the time the pastor was thinking about changing his car I had just bought myself a new one. I felt a bit like David who having built himself a fine new palace felt guilty about God having to make do with a tent. David did not think he should have a better dwelling than God! It was this that overcame my resistance to parting with my money. So the motive that activated my giving was a good one.

Jesus said, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Mt10v42. Jesus did not consider it impossible for men and women to give for his sake. He would hardly have said what he did otherwise. Many, many, Christians have helped their brothers and sisters in the faith, because they belong to Christ, and have received their reward. They have seen God. They have seen him at work in: the ministry of an encouraged pastor, the activities of a sponsored mission, the witness of a caring church and the holiday outreaches that result in so many young lives being won for Jesus. This is a great blessing - the blessing of the pure in heart.