Motivation

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Is any motivation good motivation?  If someone is motivated to perform out of the spirit of competition, the desire for glory or position, or just plain a plain ole desire for control, power or money is that motivation good?  Does any driving force qualify as a “good” or “right” driving force?  I’ve heard that so long as the fruit is good then it doesn’t matter.  I would question if that fruit is lasting fruit. 

I’ve been contemplating this question because I feel that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still wrong.  As I always, I take it to the authority on such matters…the Bible.  These scriptures are from the Message Bible.

Proverbs 17:20
A bad motive can’t achieve a good end; double-talk brings you double trouble.

Proverbs 21:2
We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives.

Proverbs 21:8
Mixed motives twist life into tangles; pure motives take you straight down the road.

Philippians 1:15-21

It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I (Paul) am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.   So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

So Paul said he didn’t care about motives as long as Christ is proclaimed.  Interesting.  As Proverbs says, if your motives are off you will get off course.  If your motives are off then you cannot achieve a good end.  And God examines our motives; our hearts. 

So why do you do what you do?

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3 thoughts on “Motivation

  1. I’ve been realizing lately how complicated the term and theology behind the word “motive” can actually be. For a long time I preached that any motive other than glofying the Lord was wrong and would produce nothing of eternal value. However, I have looked back at my own life and realized wrong motives have actually played a huge part in personal purity – for me, at least. I spent years too afraid of what my parents – and other authorities over me – would think to do anything very rebellious. While my motive wasn’t particularly godly, and didn’t always produce seamless results, it still did wonders to preserve my innocence and prevent a lot of “dabbling” that could have become heavy baggage now that I’m older. I do think the Lord burns away those ulterior motives when we are in Heaven – in other words, they will not be jewels that we can crown Him with. However, I do think God can still use our less-than-God-centered motives to produce blessings and benefits in our lives while we are here on earth.

  2. The pastor at my previous church was always fond of saying: if you don’t work with God, He will work around you.

    Which always made me think of the story of the Exodus and how the motives of Pharaoh were used to bring about God’s will.

    Pharaoh will be judged according to his actions, yet God knows all and plans around our own motives to effect His will all the time.

    To echo the sentiments of what Paul said in the passage you quoted: who cares? At the end of the day, God’s glory will be made known despite the incorrectly motivated plans of men.

    Personally, however, insofar as your day of Judgment is concerned, you had better have given over your motives/heart to the Lord Jesus, to him who has the best motive of all: your individual salvation.

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