False Intent - In Memoriam of Mr. David M.Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
The Chovot Halevavot (Duties of the Heart; Gate 5:Chapter 1, Bachaya ben Joseph ibn Pekoda, 11th Century, Saragossa Spain, translated to Hebrew by Judah ibn Tibbon, 12th Century) explains, if we understand that the purpose of our being is to do the will of G-d. Logically, our actions and deeds should be focused on fulfilling G-d's will. Just as our actions must be in line with G-d's will, so should our motives. This leads us to the concept of "Lishma" - acting with the sole intent of doing the will of G-d.
The Chovot Halevavot (Gate 5; Chapter 3) makes the point that a crucial component in our deeds, that which is seen by other people (charity and kindness), is incomplete if the motives behind these deeds were done for personal gain. "The duties of a man's heart does not allow for sycophancy, personal praise, and honor. One must be aware that even though motives are concealed in the heart, unseen by outsiders, G-d knows them as the verse states 'I, G-d, am the one who analyzes the heart and tests the innards of our being'(Jeremiah 17)." Our sole intent, to the exclusion of all other benefits, must be to serve G-d.
"Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for me a portion, from every man whose heart will motivate him you shall take my portion." (Exodus 25:2) G-d is commanding the Jewish nation to donate towards the construction of the Tabernacle. Rashi (1040 – 1105) comments on the wording "take for Me." "For Me" means dedicated in My name. G-d wanted to insure that the donations were only accepted if the donor had proper intent. For the sanctuary to become a dwelling place for G-d, every element of the construction, even the motivations behind the donations, had to be pure.
The cliché, "beauty lies within," rings true in our actions, a concept almost forgotten within a superficial and materialistic society. If one's deeds are not in line with his heart, if one is looking to show or flaunt his righteousness, he is living a false life. Actions alone are not sufficient. Intent matters.