Choosing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons

The Things We Do for the Sake of Convenience

Will Ryan / 10.19.22

The sausage biscuit from Wendy’s I eat on the way into the office, the Swiffer wet pads I use to clean the my floors, and the iPad I throw my kid to get her to stop yelling when it’s hour 2 of a 4 1/2-hour car ride all have something in common.

These are all things I do because of convenience. I know they are not necessarily the right choices for my body, the world’s ecological health, or my kid’s development but that doesn’t matter at the moment. I’m choosing them for convenience because they give me a short-term benefit: a full belly, a satisfied salt-loving palate, a (relatively) clean room, and some time in the car where I’m not trying to pull my hair out.

Let’s not talk about the fact that I have a family history of high blood pressure and I was diagnosed with pre-hypertension at the ripe old age of 26. Please don’t bring up the fact that I own a mop that can do the job just as well as throwaway pads. And please don’t remind me I’m slowly conditioning my child to know that if she screams in the car long enough she’ll get to watch “Winnie the Pooh” on the iPad. I know they aren’t the most “healthy” decisions, but I do them anyway even with the nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I shouldn’t be doing them.

I’m sure there are things in your life you do for the sake of convenience. You know they are not right, not good, not ultimately what you should do, but you do them nonetheless. You do them because they satisfy something in the short term. The benefits outweigh the costs, even if just in the moment.


Paul was no stranger to such ideas, knowing what you should do and not doing it anyway. He battled with it himself. I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate (Rom. 7:15). Sin has corrupted the way we move in the world. Just knowing what you should do is not enough to actually do it. The Law cannot produce what it wills. It can tell you not to do something, but it cannot make you want to not do it.

Telling you to love your neighbor won’t actually make you love them. Have you ever actually tried to love someone? Tried to force it when it wasn’t there? Tried to harangue and cajole yourself into feeling something? Bonnie Raitt wasn’t wrong when she sang, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t. You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.”

It goes much deeper than fast-food, fast-cleaning, and fast-babysitting — we can’t choose, work, convince, or any other active verb our way out of guilt and into salvation. No, we need help from the outside — which is exactly what Jesus gives on the cross. God has done what was impossible for the Law, since it was weak because of selfishness. God condemned sin in the body by sending his own Son to deal with sin in the same body as humans, who are controlled by sin. He did this so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us (Rom. 8:3-4).

The requirements of the Law are complete in Christ. The demands placed on us in this life are met. The Law says “do this,” but the Gospel says “it’s already done.”

Now don’t get me and Paul wrong. The Law is holy and good and true. There are things we should and shouldn’t do. Paul wasn’t afraid to use the declarative, to exhort his fellow believers to do particular things. Take for example 2 Timothy: Paul penned the letter to try and reignite the spark for his young protégé, and in it he told Timothy to do certain things, to behave certain ways, to remember certain people.

Paul even gave Timothy the basis of Timothy’s ministry from then on: Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient (2 Tim. 4:2). This sounds a lot like Law: “Do this!” But it’s based on the grace of God. Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word,” but it could really mean “preach Jesus.” Preach his grace, preach his forgiveness, preach his new life, preach his redemption — do it when people want to hear it and when they don’t. (And let’s be real, most probably won’t. Not during Timothy’s lifetime nor now). 

But that isn’t to stop Timothy (nor the Church) from proclaiming the Gospel and preaching the Word, because it’s the only thing that frees people from the “shoulds” and “oughts.” It’s the only thing that’s going to stop the nagging voice in the back of my mind from constantly berating myself for choosing the convenient over the good and right. It’s the only thing that’s going to stop the nagging voice in the back of my mind from constantly berating me for choosing the good and right only out of guilt.

And hey, knowing I’m not condemned because of the sausage biscuit, Swiffer wet pad, or iPad parenting, might actually lead me to choose none of those things next time.

Perhaps. But those biscuits are actually pretty good …

subscribe to the Mockingbird newsletter


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *