Lawrence Kohlberg theorizes that that are six reasons why man does “the right thing.” He describes six different levels of moral development. A level-one person does the right thing to avoid punishment or to gain personal pleasure. A level-two individual does the right thing to please someone else (parent, boss, coach, teacher, etc). A person at level three does the right thing because it is the law of the land. At level four, the motivation for doing right is to benefit the group or society as a whole. At level five, the choice to do the right thing is based on the need to please a higher being. And, a level-six person does the right thing just because it is right.
Kohlberg says that people do not naturally move up the levels as they grow older. In fact, he says that most adults base their decisions on level-one thinking most of the time. And that very few adults operate at level six — ever. Sad to think that most of our decisions are based on the same motivations as cats, dogs, and horses — reward and punishment.
God has given us written instruction for right choices. It shows intelligence to follow these instructions. A person without a belief in God could follow the instructions for right living with others, and his/her life and relationships would be better. It’s just smart stuff.
If we do believe in God, we get several bonuses for our obedience to these instructions. We are told by God Himself that one of the ways that we show our love to Him is by doing/obeying these instructions.
It’s not a blind obedience to a set of bizarre or weird requirements. Nor is it a magic incantation kind of obedience that requires God to reward us when we do these right things. When we obey His instructions because we trust that He has our best interests at heart, it becomes an act of love from us to Him.
Obedience to God throughout history has always been an act of trust that was costly/painful at some level but rewarding at another. Being told to leave the Garden was a painful experience in terms of what was left behind. But, if they had eaten from the tree of life, they would have been doomed to their fallen state and fallen world forever. They would never have had the opportunity to leave the death and decay around them by dying and going to be with God.
It took a lot of trust on Noah’s part to build a huge boat on dry land while being ridiculed by friends and neighbors. Yet, it was the right thing to do.
Abraham’s obedience to the directive from God to leave his homeland and travel to a place God would later show him — without a map, itinerary, or GPS — has resulted in Abraham being heralded as one of the greatest men of faith of all time. God seems to appreciate and honor those who have wild and extravagant trust in Him.
In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we have a long historical list of those who God honors because of their trust, in spite of the costs to them. And there always seeemed to be costs.
Why do we obey God? We obey Him because history and our own experience tell us that it is a smart thing to do.
What do you give someone like God who has everything? Apparently He doesn’t have everything. He actually wants our freely chosen love for Him in the form of obedience. An obedience that is based on believing that He has our best interests at heart. He apparently highly values our choosing to trust His directives in spite of what it might cost us in the eyes of others or in our life circumstances.
Why obey God?