Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 50, Perform the Work of God Wherever You Are

Sometimes monks had to leave the monastery for pilgrimages or to attend to monastery business. Or sometimes the work of the monk was too far away for them to get back for the prayer service. Chapter 50 of The Rule of St. Benedict addresses these situations by encouraging the traveling and working monks to continue to attend to the work of God (worship) no matter where they are:
3[The brothers] are to perform the Work of God where they are, and kneel out of reverence for observe as best they can...
One of the most widely used instruments to assess religiosity is Gordon Allport's Religious Orientation Scale (ROS). The scale was developed to assess Allport's theory about religious motivation. According to Allport religious motivation--why you practiced your faith--could be either intrinsic or extrinsic. If your motivations were extrinsic you practiced your faith to get some external reward. Social approbation, perhaps, like Jesus describes in the gospels, practicing your faith "before men" so that you might be socially rewarded by others.

By contrast, someone with an intrinsic religious motivation is someone who is motivated by internal factors, like the love of God, someone who practices their faith in the absence of external rewards and punishments.

Another way to make this contrast is to say that extrinsic motivations treat faith as a means to an end. Intrinsic motivations see faith as an end in itself.

So how might you assess the difference?

One item from the original Religion Orientation Scale is this:
If not prevented by unavoidable circumstances, I attend church.
A key test in this regard is if you go to church when traveling or on vacation. If you do, your intrinsic motivation is very high. You go to church when there is zero external social reward or cost.

As an intrinsically motivated believer, you celebrate the work of God wherever you are.

Benedict would applaud you.

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7 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 50, Perform the Work of God Wherever You Are”

  1. Good Day,

    Where can I get a copy of the Religious Orientation Scale test instrument, and
    test protocol? I am a retired high school guidance counselor working on a new
    program at our church that hopes to build discipleship in our adolescents and
    adult members. You've gotten me curious about assessments of this kind, their
    validity, and about how I might score if I took one of them.

    Thanks for your help.


  2. Benedict seems to be encouraging the practice of God's work (=works of mercy?) wherever we find ourselves. It could be argued that going somewhere you aren't in order to do this is missing the point... Like the priest who had no time to stop for the injured Samaritan. Perhaps REALLY intrinsically motivated believers have transcended the need to go to church for its own sake. Perhaps some of those holiday attenders are following an internal law, listening to the inner accuser. That's why I'm not a great fan of questionnaires - we have far less idea about why we do things than we think we do.

  3. That's the sad irony. A parent might want to go to church for intrinsic reasons. But when they make their kids go they are motivating them with extrinsic reasons, which has the effect of undermining the children's ability to develop their own intrinsic motivations. Psychologists call it the undermining effect: extrinsic rewards and punishments undermine intrinsic motivations. For example, how a love of reading is undermined when you assigned a book to read for an English class. Or my favorite example from our Christian campus: Mandatory chapel.

  4. Yes-I'm also a product of mandatory chapel too(Biola). Really if it's awesome-you will want to go. That's why when my 3rd grader didn't want to go to midweek kids club (they made him sit and not with his friends because he talked to much), I said he didn't have to go. Church should and can be wonderful. Guilt does not need to be a part of it. And now it makes we want to rebel and not go at all just make sure Jesus loves me even if I don't go to church. And I found out that he does. That's an awesome place to be :)

  5. Is intrinsic motivation
    really all that much different? Or rather, Is intrinsic motivation equally
    vulnerable to external rewards/costs as external motivation? I guess this is
    getting close to the paradox of altruism, and can I really do anything that is
    in some way not extrinsically motivated. But I wonder if what I feel is
    intrinsically motivated, is actually motivated by external rewards. For example,
    I went on a late night binge so I awoke and went to morning prayer before work
    as some sort of penance or way to say I’m sorry. Does my intrinsic motivation
    really carry the same value or merit (poor words, I know, I’m struggling here)
    as if I went to be seen "before men". Because, sure, I was motivated
    by internal factors, I wanted to say sorry and beg forgiveness for behavior
    that left me feeling remorse, but aren’t these internal motivations just
    as vulnerable to extrinsic motivators? There is a discrepancy in why I
    seek after faith. Although I desire to see faith as an end in itself, I am often
    motivated to faith because of my brokenness and need of healing, thus treating faith
    more of a means to an end. I’m not convinced this sort of intrinsic motivation
    is all that different from if I went and worshiped because I could fulfill a
    social need or extrinsic need. Ahh, it may be wrestling with the wind… But I’m
    thinking that motivation, extrinsic or intrinsic can land in a similar place,
    celebrating the work of God. Perhaps,
    Andrew has already framed a good response to this, “we have far less idea about
    why we do things than we think we do”

  6. One of the most quoted verses of my upbringing was Heb.10:25....not to forsake the assembly and, what's more, to encourage one another even as we see the day approaching. That's why a lot of our folks hit the doors every time they opened, for most of us three times a week. It was important to obey the Lord's instructions, so here we were at church. Legalistic? Intrinsic? extrinsic? Yes. Hopefully some of the good parts rubbed off and maybe my presence was a blessing to someone. Now over 65 years later we still go unless "providentially hindered." Motivation? David Brooks' recent book The Social Animal reminds me that it's all pretty complex. All I know is that I don't feel nearly as bad as I used to about sometimes missing church. My blessing on you all? May the oxen in your ditch be far and few between and may God be with you till we meet again!

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