One day Moses (Pbuh) watered the Prophet Jethro’s flocks of sheep and then in return Jethro (Pbuh) invited him to come home with him. Moses entered that great Prophet’s house where the table was already spread for dinner. Jethro requested the young man to sit down for dinner. Moses replied that he could not partake of the food, so Jethro asked Moses if he was hungry. Moses replied he was hungry, but was afraid that the dinner before him was in recompense for his previous good deed. He said we are of a family who will not even exchange a bit of our good deeds for the Hereafter, even an earth full of pure gold. Jethro said: “O, young man! I swear to God that this was not what I had in mind when inviting you to dinner. I didn’t intend to recompense your divine deed with food from my table. It is my father’s and my custom to entertain guests and serve them food. After this discussion, Moses sat down at the table to eat.
[Bihar al-Anwar, v.13, p.21]
Really, it is very astonishing that Moses had left Egypt some time ago and been wandering around in the wilderness, but during that time was not able to find any suitable food. He had eaten the sweet plants of the desert and upon entering Jethro’s house he saw a prepared and pleasant table of food. Even though he was terribly hungry, he would not partake of the food because he thought that this deed only for God’s sake (watering the sheep) might possibly be lessened in the sight of Allah. However, when Jethro insured Moses that he also intended to please God and had sincere intentions in entertaining his guest, then Moses sat down to eat. Jethro’s sincerity was the reason why Moses became Jethro’s shepherd for the next eight years. And Moses sincerity was the reason why the Prophet Jethro (Pbuh) became Moses’s father-in-law.
We should seek lesson from the above story for doing good deeds with sincerity.
Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a), while explaining the utterance of God Almighty, “That He might try you (to see) which of you is fairest in works.” (67:2) said: “It does not mean one of you whose deeds are more numerous but one who is more rightful in his conduct, and this rightness is nothing but fear of God and sincerity of intention (niyyah) and fear.” Then he (a) added: “To persevere in an action until it becomes sincere is more difficult than (performing) the action itself, and sincerity of action lies in this that you should not desire anyone to praise you for it except God Almighty, and intention supersedes action. Lo, verily, intention is action itself.” Then he recited the Qur’anic verse, “Say, everyone acts in accordance with his character (shakilatihi)”, (17:84) adding, “That shakilah means niyyah.”[Al‑Kulayni, al‑Kafi, vol. 2, kitab al‑ iman wa al‑kufr, bab al‑’ikhlas, hadith # 4]
Imam al‑Baqir (a) said: “Perseverance in an action is more difficult than the act itself.” He was asked, “What is meant by perseverance in action?” He (a) replied, “A man does some kindness to a relative or expends something for the sake of God, Who is One and has no partner. Thereupon the reward of a good deed performed secretly is written for him. Later, he mentions it to someone and that which was written earlier is wiped out and instead the reward of a good deed performed openly is written for him. Later, when he makes a mention of it again, the vice of riya’ (showing off) is written for him (instead of the reward written earlier).” [Al‑Kulayni al‑Kafi, kitab al‑’iman wa al‑kufr, bab al‑riya‘, hadith # 16]