The scriptures themselves answer this inquiry. I will answer this question by first saying what it’s not. The motive cannot be for self-aggrandizement. If you try to use self-aggrandizement as a motivating tool it becomes the seeking of vain glory which amounts to stealing Glory from God. Don’t tell people they will feel better about themselves for serving humanity. If people come to you with a desire to make themselves feel good, seeking enjoyment, gratification or comfort in doing things as part of the body of Christ it’s good and proper to point them to the better motivation.
We must understand that as followers of Jesus Christ fundamentally God will be doing the work and not us. He will use us as individual and as a body of Believers in His work however, it is His plans that will be done. It's about Him not me.
Who does Jesus say gets the praise for the works we do? God does. Not us.
Notice one more thing in these verses. There are quite a few references to ‘light’ in these verses. What makes up this ‘light’ he’s referring to? The best way to answer that question is how did Jesus show us what this light was?
It has at least two part to it. Preaching and Works. Everywhere Jesus went he did two things, told all who would listen the gospel of the Kingdom of God and met people’s needs; physical healing, feeding, security. He spoke and He did. Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. - Matthew 9:35 (NIV) He also told His disciples to do the same thing. Go and tell everyone who would listen about the kingdom of God and meet their needs. And when you come back glorify God.
Without question Jesus came to speak first and foremost. Like Paul says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” - Romans 10:14 (NIV). Our eternity was His priority not our bellies. Our bellies were a means to an end, our souls.
That is Jesus model of ‘light’. It should be ours, if we considered ourselves as Ambassadors of Christ.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. - John 6:38 (NIV)
Then how do you deal with the inevitable feeling of satisfaction, enjoyment and comfort that naturally flow after participating in good works? First ask the question did I share the gospel of the Kingdom of God or participate in the sharing process of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. I mean, sooner than later and later than never. The point being, sharing the gospel is essential. It can never be an option. Jesus and the disciples modeled and told us this was without question.
There’s this famous quote that gets thrown around in Christian circle today. It sounds deep and spiritual. It even has the flavor of something biblical. “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” I get the sentiment and reason behind these words however, it’s opposite of what Jesus showed us. If people are quoting this, they’re just wanting to sound spiritual. Must people wouldn’t intentionally steer people away from Jesus example. We all get caught up wanting to be liked. It’s part of our frailty as humans.
That’s why we need each other as a body of believers. To encourage one another. To remind each other. I know I need it.
So the right way to motivate believers is to point them to Jesus. Don’t appeal to the sinful human nature that’s in all of us.
If you go to serve an unbelieving world without the desire to share gospel of the kingdom of God as the primary motivating factor, then you’re doing for self in the disguise of ‘doing it for others’. Which means you’re doing it for the wrong motives as a believer.
It’s OK to know you’re going to experience joy, just remember it’s the joy of the Lord.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)