We live in an environment in which image is everything and substance is nothing. The world is hostile to God, and therefore creates a culture motivated by backward thinking. However, the motivation behind our actions matters greatly to God. As believers who’ve been saved and made righteous by our faith in Christ, we must always be on the alert for external influences that can jeopardize our motives.
There’s never a vacuum behind what we do. Our actions are the end result of a number of things that affect us. What we expose ourselves to influences how we think; how we think influences how we feel; how we feel influences our decisions; and our decisions influence our actions. Understanding this gives us a clear perspective on the importance of developing and maintaining godly motives. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 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” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NKJV).
Love is the motivation behind all of God’s commandments and should be our motivation, as well. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NIV). The world rejects this motivation because it doesn’t know our God, who is the very essence of love. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit protects us from the damage worldly motives can inflict.
Our reasons may be invisible to others, but not to God. He knows everything about us, including what moves us. “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2, NIV). Even when we’re trying to fool ourselves about our true intent, there’s no fooling Him.
Being honest with ourselves involves setting aside all our rationalizations and looking inside us to see what’s there. Letting the world influence our motives puts us at risk of doing things to impress others. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). We may know deep down inside that we have impure motives; facing them can be difficult.
Being a people-pleaser is dangerous to us spiritually because it keeps us from fulfilling the mission God has given us. We must reach the point where we don’t care anymore what others think. Letting the Holy Spirit work in us changes our motivation so that eventually God will be the only one we care about pleasing. Paul emphatically pointed this out: “For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else” (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, NLT).
God gives us the courage to confront our motives. When He points out a problem, He does so in love. Letting Him be our guide keeps us on the right path.