Hilton Hotels & Resorts recently announced that they will stop offering on-demand pornography in their hotel rooms. Because of existing contractual obligations, the hotel chain says it cannot immediately remove the adult films from all of its sites. However, they will no longer be permitted in new or renewed vendor agreements as of September 1st and will be phased out entirely by July 1st of next year. The change will apply to all of its roughly 4,300 properties around the world.
The move was made after meeting with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) to gain a better understanding of the potential harm associated with providing such adult films. Following the decision, the NCOSE took the hotel chain off of its “Dirty Dozen” list, a collection of the “12 leading contributors of sexual exploitation.” The group’s reasoning is that “Pornography not only contributes to the demand for sex trafficking, which is a serious concern in hotels, but it also contributes to child exploitation, sexual violence, and lifelong porn addictions.”
Hilton’s decision is merely the latest in what has become something of a trend among large hotel chains. Marriot, Ritz-Carlton, Omni, Drury, and Nordic Choice Hotels have made similar changes in recent years. However, while Hilton’s official statement cites the wishes of their customers as well as the company’s vision and goals as the reason for the change, many have been quick to point out that most of these chains made the decision to remove pornographic content from their on-demand services after the proliferation of wifi-compatible personal devices made it less profitable to continue making them available. While Omni hotels is an exception to that, having removed on-demand pornography back in 1999 when it was still extremely profitable, most of the others are likely to have at least some ulterior motive for the choice. That is not to say that morality had nothing to do with their respective decisions, but simply that it was not the only factor.
At the end of the day though, how much should that matter? If the right decision is made, should the reasons behind it really make a difference in how we judge it? After all, there is little doubt that removing pornographic content from the on-demand offerings in these hotels is a morally correct thing to do. And while some customers are still likely to view explicit materials on their own devices, neither Hilton nor the others can really do much about that.
The truth is that motives do matter and, while God’s redemption is such that good can come from selfish or impure motivations, why you do something matters to the Lord as much or more than what you do. We see it with Moses in the wilderness when he tried to take credit for providing water to the people by hitting the rock with his staff instead of simply speaking to it as the Lord commanded (Num. 20:8-13). God still provided for the people so his purpose was done but because Moses went about it with the wrong motives, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Luke gives us another example in Acts when Ananias and Sapphira sold land in order to give the funds to the service of the Lord. This was a benevolent and sacrificial act on their part. However, because they lied about how much they’d received in order to keep some back from themselves, thus seeking to keep not only part of the money but also the praise of the other Christians, they died at Peter’s feet (Acts 5:1-11).
Those examples demonstrate the truth of God’s word to Samuel: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). That was true with David, who the prophet had gone to anoint as Israel’s future king, and it’s true with every other person God has created. We must never underestimate the importance of doing moral things for moral reasons because, if we do, scripture is clear that there will be consequences.
That said, I’m not trying to imply that Hilton’s business or its leaders will suffer because they may have had some ulterior motives for removing the pornographic content. However, I do think scripture is clear that we cannot experience God’s full blessings for living a moral life if we do so for immoral and selfish reasons. That’s true for hotel moguls and it’s true for each of us.
So the next time you are faced with a moral quandary, remember that God knows your heart and cares as deeply about your reasons as your actions. True, biblical morality requires that both be in line with his will. God won’t settle for less than that. Will you?