What's Your Motivation?

One of the things we seem to want to do most is something we should not presume to be able to do: judge motives. Certainly, motivations are sometimes clear by what is being done, but sometimes we may ourselves be deceived into thinking we know what the motivation of another is when we, in all actuality, do not know. It is then that we should refrain from jumping to conclusions or impugning motives lest our foolishness be revealed when the truth is known. Sadly, some will impugn the motives and refuse to believe anything else even when the person clearly states the motivation is not what has been purported.

Though judging motives of others is neither our business nor within our ability, we SHOULD be concerned with something we CAN know: our own motivations. And we should be concerned about our motivation for everything we do in relation to God and His will, for it is what God is concerned about. God looks into the hearts of men and judges us not only for what we do, but WHY we do it. Knowing this, let us look at a few motivations for things we do and consider if they are OUR motivations.

Proper motivations will ensure we stand acceptable in the sight of God, while improper motivations will render our service as vain and unheeded. Let us look at a few areas in which our motivations may approve or condemn our service.


Worship, by definition, is 'the reverent love shown to God.' Worship, by definition, cannot be done for any other reason than a motivation of love for God. But, we all know that many have approached God in apparent worship with various motives for which they were condemned. Let me say again: love for God should be the sole motivation for worship. [Secondary motives which result from our love for God, such as seeking and supplying edification from and for our fellow brethren, are also possible.]

People have come to God in apparent worship, offering words of praise and honor, while their hearts were not sincere. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this very thing, applying Isaiah's condemnation that “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Matt. 15:8) He went on to say that they worshipped Him in vain because, even as they approached Him and said the right words, their hearts were not in it. They were not really coming to worship God, but to fulfill their own heart's desire.

And this is still a major motivation problem today, many years removed from the day Jesus walked this earth. Still today, people go to certain "worship assemblies" — not to show love to God, but to be entertained, to be part of a group, or simply because their family or someone they know goes there. In a religion survey, people responded that the overwhelming reason (79%) they go to the church they do is because it is close to where they live. Think for a minute: convenience is the stated reason for almost 4 out of 5 people to go where they go. Not even registering on the survey was any response given that they believed it was a church that followed the word of God. (This was an open-ended survey which allowed the participants to give answers as they saw fit, without a multiple-choice list.) If this is true, what must God think of those who approach Him just as the Pharisees did — drawing near with their lips but hearts far from Him?

I can assure you that if such was vain worship when Christ said it, it is vain worship today. Worship, again, is the reverent love shown to God. It is not defined as ‘the time when we gather with other people who want to come to God on their own terms, too.’ Worship is showing God we love Him, and Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Then He said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (14:21) And He again said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (15:14) Take a look at what you do when you worship and why you do it; Is it to please God or self? Is it done in the way God said it is to be done, or the way that best suits self? The motive behind what you do will most likely have a lot to do with how you answer.


As with our worship, motive makes a difference when it comes to preaching the word. The apostle Paul had to personally deal with some of his time who preached the gospel for other than honorable motives. To the Philippian brethren Paul wrote, “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.” (Phlp. 1:15, 16) Some of the preachers of the gospel did so to add to the suffering of Paul, while others did it sincerely, but the end result was the same in that the gospel was preached, and Paul was thankful (v. 18). While we must also rejoice in the spread of the gospel, these men will have to answer for their motives.

And, sad to say, there are some still today who preach “in pretense” or for “selfish ambition, not sincerely,” and some “from envy and strife.” Some make a great outward show of their efforts in preaching the word, getting their name in every publication possible, some even suggesting it would be beneficial if congregations had THEM to hold their gospel meetings (instead of old so-and-so, of course). These insincere preachers of the word are on the prowl for other, unwary, preachers, waiting for them to make the slightest slip in words so they can put their name in print and lambast them for being the next Antichrist. Could it be that SELFISH AMBITION is the motive, rather than a genuine concern that the truth is preached?

Others preach the word out of envy and strife and, again, it seems to be directed at other preachers of the word. I overheard a preacher say one time about another preacher, “I'll debate him anytime on any subject.” (!!!) It seems the pursuit of truth was not high on the list, but strife sure was!

Now, I can't presume to know the real motive behind some of the things preachers do, but God does! These preachers of the gospel who do it for ulterior motives may fool some of the brethren all of the time, or all of the brethren some of the time, but they will never fool God — at ANYtime.

If we are doing it for any other reason than a sincere desire for “goodwill” and “in truth,” then we better check our motives. Love has everything to do with WHY we do what we do, for Paul said, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

By Steven Harper

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