Wednesday, October 19, 2005

JSB: Motives

One of my favorite writers of all time is A. W. Tozer. He was a preacher, of course, but it is for his pen that he's remembered. His many books, most notably (for me) "The Pursuit of God," continue to inspire Christians everywhere.

Tozer had a knack for cutting through the fluff that often poses as serious thought and getting to the heart of a matter. Most of the time, he challenged the church. He didn't like seeing Christians get sidetracked with frivolous concerns like…SUCCESS!

Every writer has a secret (maybe not so secret) longing for material success. Part of that is the understandable idea of ROI (Return on Investment). We spend months or years on a novel, and naturally want lots of people to read it.

But Tozer reminds us that God has a different economy. He said:

"Any serious-minded Christian may at some time find himself wondering whether the service he is giving to God is the best it could be. He may even have times of doubting, and fear that his toil is fruitless and his life empty.... Before the judgment seat of Christ, very little will be heard of numbers or size; moral quality is about all that will matter then....In Christian service motive is everything, for it is motive that gives to every moral act its final quality."

What's your true motive for writing? Is it for recognition? For the world's idea of success? To prove your brother, who told you you'd never amount to anything, wrong?

Or is it because you want to honor God with your gifts?

Now I will say there's nothing wrong with success or recognition. But they should never be the sole (soul?) reason we write. Or do anything, for that matter.

This is not just a bromide. It's a constant struggle within the Christian artist. In my days in Hollywood, acting and writing, I saw so many Christians who compromised their beliefs in order to score a well paying job.

I was one of them.

After yet another bout of justification, I sat down and wrote something just for myself. It turned out to be a novel called "The Darwin Conspiracy." It ended up getting published, and I was a Christian fiction writer.

Now, I do not believe one has to write for the Christian market in order to honor God; only that the work we do, in whatever form, be a reflection of the light inside us.

For example, I would love to have written the screenplay of "The Hustler" starring Paul Newman. It's tough, gritty but very much a moral tale. It's about a man who sells his soul for a pool game, and suffers for it in the end.

Or "The Godfather," another film that shows the tragic consequences of wrong choices.
Or "Storm of the Century," Stephen King's TV mini-series about a town's compromises with a demon, and the awful results. Is that not biblical?

I'd love to have written the novel "Eight Million Ways to Die," about an alcoholic ex-cop on the mean streets of New York. He fights his addiction, his angst at the state of the world, and the killer he is seeking. At the end, one small blip of hope elevates all that has come before.

The point is that Christian artists have many options, but their primary motive must always be to honor God, and let the worldly honors fall where they may.

James Scott Bell,, is the author of Breach of Promise and several other novels


At 9:05 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

Man, this hits home. Thanks for sharing.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger michael snyder said...


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

That really helps to deal with some issues I was having. Thank you!


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