Last night as I was helping a friend get her children ready for trick-or-treating, her 3-year-old son burst out, “Trick or treat, smell my feet . . .” and couldn’t remember the ending. So I added, “Give me something good to eat.” He laughed, and now that I had prompted him, said the whole thing again, kind of like a rehearsal. “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.”

I realized that this might be in poor taste if I had taught a three-year old to use this phrase while trick-or-treating (though I was actually just reminding him of what he already seemed to know!), so I said, “No, you should just say, ‘Trick or treat’ so they’ll give you some candy.”

So my three-year-old buddy said, “Trick or treat, give me some candy.” I sighed.

“No, what I meant was that you should just say “Trick or Treat” real nicely, and then, the people at the houses will want to give you candy. Don’t actually ask them for it.”

He looked at me kind of confused, and said, “Oh.”

I didn’t really think much more about the exchange until today, when I thought about what I was really teaching this little guy with the pliable mind. I wasn’t telling him to act kindly to the people he would meet because kindness is a fruit of the spirit, or because gentle answers turn away wrath. Instead, I taught him that being nice will help him get what he wants.

I doubt I’ve ruined him for life, or anything. I’ll have plenty more opportunities to do that. But our little talk has caused me to question my own motives. How much of my behavior is spirit-led and motivated by a love for Jesus? And how much of it is just a way to get what I want?

Perhaps the best way to tell is to see how I act toward my enemies and those who have nothing to offer me.