“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” – James 4:2-3.
The Bible has a lot to say about our motives. A motive is the underlying reason for any action. Motives are what’s behind what we do, did or about to do. Proverbs 16:2 says, “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” Jeremiah 17:9 says,“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Because the human heart is very deceitful we can easily fool ourselves about our own motives. We can pretend that we are choosing certain actions for God or the benefit of others, when in reality we have selfish reasons. God is not fooled by our selfishness and “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
Our motives matter because God cares more about who we are becoming than what we are achieving. Our motives determine what we do, who we are, and who we will become. Motives give meaning to our behaviors.
Every person since the beginning has experienced moments where their motives are put to the test. In 1 Samuel 18, King Saul became jealous of David because his growing popularity was just too much for Saul to handle. Saul began scheming of ways he could kill David. Motives give meaning to our behaviors. God knew the true motives of Saul’s heart were to harm David. Just as God knew the motives of David’s heart were to be humble and honorable. Psalm 26:2 says, “Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.Test my motives and my heart.”
One of the best ways to keep our motives pure is to ask God to show us the real reasons we do the things we do. Because when we consider our motives before taking action, we are more likely to act in a way that honors Jesus.
- How can we tell if our motives are more like Saul, selfish and harmful, or like David, genuine and honorable?
- James 4: 3: When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. What would some examples of wrong motives be? What could be some ways we could know our motives are right?