Even Satan, when trying to cause humanity to fall into sin, offered Eve a motive, not merely an act. He did not just tell her, “do it, do it, do it” but sneaked in an enticing motive, saying “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). Since then, every single sin that has ever been committed has been done because of a preceding motive. In fact every action has been carried out because of a motive. What is yours? I cannot dare to think we can exhaustively consider them all, but here are some general ideas to get us thinking about our motives.
4 Common Motives
1. To please people
Are you pursuing the college degree your parents picked out for you because you are afraid of letting them down? Is your greatest fear of being not liked or not accepted by people? Do you often go out of your way to help people because you want them to like you? Then that is one of your motivators, and it is the driving factor in your life. You dress, work, achieve, serve, mainly to be loved and accepted. You may do a great deal of things for people, but ultimately not because you love them, but you love yourself, and want them to love you too.
2. To acquire possessions
When thinking about picking a career, my friends and I spent hours poring over salary data, comparing what jobs would net us the most income. When I worked construction, I often stayed late in the day, simply to earn more money, because I wanted it. I would say “If I work an extra few hours, I can buy a new shirt.” If you are constantly thinking about how to make or save money to obtain possessions this is a huge motivator for you. While you try to possess things, it is actually the desire to have those things that possesses you and your life.
3. To obtain a prestigious position
Do you serve or volunteer somewhere? Do you work at a prominent company? Did you choose a career that is well respected and esteemed? Why? Sometimes we gravitate towards these things because there is prestige and respect in doing them. When given the option of doing something that is prominent and up-front as opposed to largely unnoticed, which do you choose? Leadership and influence over others can be motivated by the desire to see others being guided well, or it can be stimulated by the desire to see yourself as the good guide.
4. To pursue pleasures
Is your whole life centered around pleasing experiences? Do you earn money only to spend it on pleasure, to go on vacation, eat tasty food, or play with new toys? Are you desperately seeking relationships in order to have sex or find emotionally pleasing fulfillment. Do you live for the weekend? Do you use recreational drugs or substances to feel good? Then you want to avoid pain and seek pleasure, simply because one feels bad and the other feels good. It is a very primal instinct that controls your life.
4 Common Motives… Redeemed
Yet, in all these categories, your motives can be redeemed, reshaped, and refocused. One does not have to be stoic and avoid people, possessions, positions, and pleasures. These things will always be part of what motivates you to perform certain actions, so the main question is how can these factors be selfless rather than selfish. You will always be motivated in relation to people, yet a selfish relationship with people will motivate you to selfish acts, while a selfless relation to people will do the opposite. Because of God’s Grace through the cross, we can receive these renewed motives.
1. To love people
Instead of doing all things to be loved by people, make it your goal to love people well. This means that while in the past you might have given in to people to be loved, now you may choose to stand firm. If your friend wanted to do something stupid, and you obliged, in order to be accepted, now you may confront him, because you love him and don’t want him hurting himself or others. While in the past you were largely concerned with people’s thoughts of you, now you are more concerned with their wellbeing.
2. To steward possessions
Instead of a grand desire to accumulate tons of wealth that drives your actions, be motivated by the desire to steward your possessions well. Understand that nothing is truly yours, but you ought not be lazy, for you serve a master that entrusted you with much. Use your finances and wealth to help others. Work hard to earn money and buy possessions for your family, and for the needy. Don’t allow money to be the idol that motivates you to be educated and work, and but do allow it to be the tool that you use well.
3. To serve from position
Instead of centering your life around a pursuit of respect, focus it on respecting others. Recognize that all are called to some kind of position or placement in this life. Let that call be a rallying call for your life, and work hard to fulfill that call. Understand that the purpose of your position is not to brag to others, but to humbly serve others. For example, I once thought that to be a pastor is to be a prominent leader, yet Christ calls pastors to humble servants. If indeed your call is to be in a more prominent position then pursue it, but not from the motive of being great, but to serve greatly.
4. To enjoy the pleasures of God
Instead of finding ultimate fulfillment in the pleasures of life, enjoy all of life to the glory of God. Do not live seeking to feel the internal highs of pleasure, but make it your ambition to give honor to the Creator upon enjoying any created pleasure. If indeed you are blessed with the gift of taking a vacation, or a wonderful meal, do not make that thing in itself be the ultimate goal of your life. Focus the derived joy of the pleasure onto the Creator of the pleasure. Like a child who has just been given a birthday present, run to embrace and thank the Giver, rather than immersing yourself completely into the gift. Like a woman who has been given a diamond by her fiancé ought not place all her concentration and affection on the tiny rock, but rather onto her lover, so you too embrace the One who is far more valuable and enjoyable than the gifts He gives.
The deepest motives in your heart will define millions of moments in your life.