Motives: Can They Really Be That Deadly?

How do we know if our motives are pure? If we are walking in total obedience to the Lord and depending on Him for everything, there will be no need to question it. But other people will. That’s just the sad fact. People judge motive.

There are tons of reasons people put other people on the stand to determine their motive: to expose discrepancies in their testimony, to mask their own insecurity, envy, and self-righteousness to name a few. We care about their opinion. But should we? Besides we ourselves, the only One Who can rightfully judge our motives is Christ alone. And boy, does He!

In reality, we mostly know our own motives for doing or saying a particular thing; otherwise, we wouldn’t do or say anything at all.

Take James, for instance; he’s a prominent cardiology researcher who has dedicated his life to find a cure for heart disease. He truly has compassion on all people prone to heart disease. James also wants to be rich and famous, to be named a hero. His motives are 2-fold. So should we automatically assume that all James wants is to become rich and famous? Does his motive to become a rich and famous hero contaminate his pure motive of compassion?

What about Eleanor? She loves volunteering at the soup kitchen on Saturdays. She gets up early each weekend and heads downtown because she has a heart for helping the poor and undernourished people of her community. But because she earns a 6-figure salary in the corporate environment, she feels she is killing 2 birds with 1 stone. She’s helping people, and she’s relieving her guilt for making beaucoup bucks as the poor suffer and have relatively nothing. Is the pure motive of serving people shrouded by a motive to relieve guilt?

Let’s take a look at Louis. He’s all for supporting overseas missionaries but feels he doesn’t have the money to sacrifice a portion of it each month. After talking to his tax-preparer, he fudges his income numbers so he can give a large portion of his tax refund to the missionaries. Does the act of lying on his tax return poison his motive to give support to God’s work?

There’s an account from the Bible in 1 Samuel 15 when King Saul chose to spare the best of the oxen and sheep of the enemy. The Lord had commanded Saul to attack the wicked Amalekites and to destroy all that they had, to spare nothing of the spoil. Was Saul’s motive to please the Lord by his partial obedience (complete disobedience) corrupted by his greed and his lack of faith that God would provide for the Israelites?

Motives really are all that’s important here. It’s all about why we do what we do and not that we do what we do.

Is the desire to be the rich and famous hero sinful at its core? Sure is. (Pride)

*What about the feeling of guilt? Is that a sin? Uh-huh, sorry. (Pride)

*How about lying in order to further God’s work? Duh. (Pride)

*Greed? There are no words… (Pride)

*Disobedience? Um, yeah! (Pride)

We as Christ-followers are required to obey the word of the Lord. Period. Sacrifice without obedience is unacceptable. Giving to get is never good. Our selfish pride is at the root of all our sinful motives. On the flip side, if we obey the word of the Lord, we will never have to question our motives. To obey God at any cost is the only motivation that will give us lasting peace and joy. To obey is better than to sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22)

2 Responses

  1. Mat 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    When David’s focus was on the Lord he was perfect, but when his focus was on himself he fell and fell hard. Ultimately his heart for God covered his sin.

    Saul never had a heart for God. He did the right thing early in his reign, but ultimately did things to bring glory to himself and Not to God.

    As Christians we struggle daily, hourly with that all the time. I remember back in 2008 when I wanted to try out for the NorthRidge praise and worship group. I was in the auditorium playing along on my bass with a Bassman amp(headphones) with the praise and worship band as it prepared for the coming weekend’s services. I was imagining myself on stage as a Christian rockstar. Then God says to me, “Are you doing this for the glory of me or the Glory of Steve!”

    Rom 7:13-25 – The battle of flesh vs the spirit.

    Rom 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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Suzanne Sommerville

Life Blogger

Christ-follower, daughter, mom, Mimi to 6 grandchildren, teacher, writer, and musician

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