When addressing motive we all seem somewhat adept at second guessing others’ motives, or at least we think so. Just consider how many times you thought or said out loud “I know why that person did that.” We might say “I know why so-and-so said that.” We might be right in some cases. There is, of course, someone who always knows “The Why” of what we do. God is always completely aware of what we do and just as aware as to why we do it. Now this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, when service to God is examined. Things throughout scripture must be examined from a correct viewpoint if we are to understand the true meaning.
Let’s create a scenario where we can see the concept of motive at work. We drive to the shopping center, park, get out of the car and we start toward the store. On the way to the store we see a homeless person begging for money. One of the first things you will do is evaluate his motive. Is he just trying to buy another bottle of wine or is he really hungry? Does he really want a job or is he just a lazy individual who is unwilling to work in order to feed himself? Okay, we’ve examined him and considered what his motive might be. But now we need to look at ourselves. We see him in the distance and we begin to gauge what we would have to do to just walk around him and avoid him thus in our own mind relieving us of any necessity to make a decision of whether or not to give him money.
Now in reality, if we were very transparent with ourselves, we would now begin the evaluation of our motive. We might just decide to go by him, give him a dollar or two, thinking to ourselves how gracious we are, you know, more or less patting ourselves on the back, because we are a good guy or gal. But now as we’re approaching him we notice another person whom we know (and I might add like to impress) giving the homeless person five dollars. Ummmm, now what? Well, I suppose now the only thing to do is to dig out at least five dollars, no let’s do six. Now again, if we are transparent with ourselves we would once again enter into examining our motive. That was easy, wasn’t it, and you see we do many things in order to appear to others around us in a way that will cultivate our pride.
Do you remember now the many standing before the Lord at the judgment seat unable to enter into heaven? Good citizens more than likely and quite frankly they had a good view of themselves as did probably their friends. But the Lord God of all creation viewed their motives with all transparency and clarity. Again the Lord resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Now what if in that same scenario you encounter the homeless individual, destitute of this world’s goods, and from your heart give without trying to achieve praise for yourself from this homeless person or anyone else? This is good, right? Well it does seem that this scenario would be better. Now, add to this case the fact that you took time to ask the Lord what you should do concerning this individual. This then, according to Scripture, moves you from doing better to the place where it brings glory to the God who supplies all things. In this case, of course, you would have said this is from the Lord and I do not want praise or glory for giving it to you.
Now it’s important to recognize that each one of these scenarios deserve some sort of notice and praise from the view of people. But the only one that receives praise from the Lord as well done is that thing that has been accomplished because His Spirit motivated. If we managed to do things like this realizing that we are only tools in God’s hands, then He receives the glory.
The above scenarios are by no means exhaustive nor are they meant to be; the purpose is that we all might examine the motives by which we do things and thereby expect reward from the Lord. Again, referring to the many in Matthew chapter 7 the list of their achievements is impressive, but that is from my viewpoint as a man. God has recorded His viewpoint about deeds that are done outside of and without His Spirit of supply and guidance. It goes back to the fact that we are not good judges of the quality of fruit. It is only the holy God who judges whether or not what we do is the fruit of the Spirit or not.
In summation, we see Abraham who offered his son as a sacrifice, recognizing that he had no place to glory before God for his works. (Romans 4:2) On the other hand, we see James, writing about what men see, and valuing or devaluing works based on what is seen from man’s perspective. (See James 2:24)