Motivation is the reason we do what we do. A man who has struggled to quit smoking may find the determination to quit when he meets a non-smoking woman whose affections he wishes to win. What made the difference? Motivation! The motive behind what we are doing determines if, and how well, a job gets done.
Regardless what motivates you to do what you do; it is good to examine your motives. Hopefully you do the right things for the right reasons. Yet, it is possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons. Doing the right things does not necessarily mean you have the right motives (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Matthew 7:21-23). Having the right motivation for what you do makes everything work better. This study will help us examine our motives.
Beware of your Motive
Jesus said, “Take heed [beware] that ye do not your alms [good deeds] before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).
Why do we do good things? Sometimes we want to be acknowledged, appreciated, and thanked for the good things we do. Why? Where does that attitude come from? Jesus said that hypocrites do good deeds so they can get noticed by men to receive glory from them. Those who do this have their reward. They were seeking human attention, so when they get it, that is all they get; they will not get any reward from God. Those who live this way do good, not because it springs naturally from inside of them, but because they are selfish and want to gain something for themselves.
You know, it is a sad reality that most people expect others to do things with a selfish motive. It is very rare for someone to do things with no selfish motive involved. When people see someone do something nice with no strings attached, no selfishness involved, it touches them, especially if that kindness involved great sacrifice. I learned an important lesson one time when I was walking through a city park with a few other men offering to pray for people. We met a man who said, “I don’t want you to pray for me. I know how this works, you are going to give me a tract, and invite me to your church so you can start getting money from me. I am not interested.” He was certain that we were there to gain something for ourselves. He refused to believe that we were there for his benefit. People are always expecting a catch, some underlying, selfish motive.
Friends, it is time for this mindset to be challenged. May our lives as Christians demonstrate pure, unselfish love with no strings attached. This type of love is not naturally in man. We can only possess it by accepting Jesus Christ into our hearts, for He is our access to this pure love that flows from His Father (John 14:6; 1 John 4:7-10).
This world lives with the mentality, “What’s in it for me?” “What do I get out of the deal?” “What is my cut?” This mindset is common in the world, but it should be foreign to Christians. I challenge you to be an oddity when it comes to the motive behind what you do. Let God’s love for you be the motive for everything you say and do. For unselfish love to flow from within, you must be born again. (Please request the booklet, “You Must be Born Again” for an explanation of how this can happen.)
The Good Shepherd
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:11-13). Jesus gave His life for those He came to save. This was demonstrated not only by Him dying for us, but also by the way He lived His life each day. He was constantly looking to help those around Him, because “He was moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36).
Jesus truly cared for everyone. This is not the case for someone who is working for a paycheck. Those who are working for the benefit they can get are working selfishly. They may be doing good things, but only as long as they can get something out of the deal. The moment there is no longer any benefit for them, when things look dangerous, they will run. This is because they don’t care for others; they only care about what they can get for themselves.
Friend, it is time to seriously consider, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” “Am I a hireling?” “Am I in this for me?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). I am talking about your Christian life, especially. Surely, you go to work so you can get a paycheck. That is okay. But why are you a Christian? Are you simply following God and doing good things because of what you can get? That is the wrong reason! Is your motive to be a hired servant or a son? The Bible says, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6, 7).
It is time to live in the freedom of being a son, rather than in the captivity of being a hired servant. In the story of the prodigal son, the older brother said to his father, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29). Though he were a son, he was living like a servant, serving selfishly for a reward.
There is so much more available to us than living for ourselves. It is not about you! You are not here so you can have a good day, so things go well for you. You are here to shine God’s unselfish character to the world around you in good times and in bad. If you think it is all about you, then you will be upset with God when things don’t go the way you want them to. It is not about you! Let God’s love shine through you no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.
Realizing it is not all about you changes the way you treat people. When your child is acting up, and you respond, “Son, stop doing that, it is getting on my nerves”, what motivated that response? Ask yourself, “Am I correcting my children for my benefit, or for theirs?” If you correct your children to make you feel better, then you are doing it for the wrong reason. Jesus never corrected anybody for His own benefit. He was always looking after the best interests of those around Him. We see this demonstrated in His prayer for those nailing Him to the cross, when He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He was not seeking to alleviate His own pain, but looking out for the ones hurting Him. The next time you are about to correct someone, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for me or for them?” If it is for you, you may as well keep your mouth shut, and pray for God to impart His unselfish love into your heart.
It is time for God’s children to manifest in this world. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19; See also Isaiah 60:1-3).
A Giver or a Taker?
Jesus said, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
It is sad when someone with authority does what he does to serve himself. This happens a lot in worldly governments and in families, “but it shall not be so among you.” This is not to happen among God’s people. Those who are the greatest are those who live to serve others. Jesus, the greatest person who ever lived on this earth, lived to serve others. He did not come to be ministered unto. He did not come to live the good life; to parade around in fancy clothes and live lavishly. No! He was a humble man without even a place to call His home (Matthew 8:20). “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) without seeking anything for Himself. The Spirit of the One who lived this way is given to His followers so we can live like He lived, because it is not us living, it is Jesus living in us (Galatians 2:20; 4:6; Romans 8:2; 1_John 2:6; Colossians 1:27).
Sometimes I catch myself saying in my mind, “I don’t like it when…” “I don’t like how that works.” “I don’t like…” When I do this I am focusing on negative things that are all focused on me. Why does it matter that I don’t like something? Am I here for me, or do I have a higher purpose? I am seeking to focus on “What does God like?” “What can I do to help that person?” “I wonder what they are going through.” Jesus said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me… I seek not mine own glory” (John 5:30; 8:50). He explained, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7:18). Jesus had a natural love for others and a desire to serve God rather than Himself. We too, can have this experience by inviting Jesus to live in our hearts.
We are not here to be ministered unto; we are here to serve others. Jesus stooped down to wash the feet of His disciples. They were shocked that He, their Lord and Master, would stoop down to wash the grime off of their feet. “That is a servant’s job! What are you doing?” The greatest leader is one who serves. As our leader, He gave us this example so we can follow in His steps (1 John 2:6). That is why we are here.
Jesus said, “But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow [think] not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:7-10).
Even if you have done more than anyone else in bringing people to the Lord, if you sell everything you have and give to the poor, if you keep every commandment, you have done no more than it is your duty to do. There is a danger in looking at our accomplishments and thinking we are special because of what we do. No! Even when we have done everything God has commanded us to do, we are to say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
You see, it is not what you do that makes you important, it is what God has given for you that makes you important. God paid the ultimate price for you, so you are worth a lot. God knows how great a price He paid for you, and He thinks He got a good deal, because you are worth it. Let the things you do be done as a result of knowing how valuable you are to God, rather than doing things to become more valuable.
Notice how Paul explained it: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4, 5). A few chapters later Paul, speaking of Israel, wrote, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
Let us read again, “Now to him that worketh [goes about to establish his own righteousness] is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not [does not go about to establish his own righteousness], but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4, 5). When you work for something you expect to get paid for your labors. You will consider the payment a debt that is owed to you rather than a free gift. This is where the Israelites were, of whom Paul was writing; they thought they had worked to become righteous and now God owes them.
Don’t let yourself go there. Do not expect payment for what you do for God. “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:34-36). True kindness is done without the hope of any benefit for yourself. If you are expecting something from the transaction, then you are in it with the wrong motive.
Jesus said, “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7, 8). May you find the joy and blessing of freely giving, for “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35; See also Luke 14:12-14; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 10:30-35).
Motives are very important. We must examine why we do the things we do. It is not good enough just to do all the right stuff. The Bible says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling 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, and have not charity [love], I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Love comes from God (1 John 4:7), He is the source of it. For you to have that love, you need to know Him and have Him living in you (1 John 4:8; 5:11, 12). If your motive for what you do is not springing from God’s love inside of you, then you are doing things for the wrong reasons.
One of the most amazing examples of pure, unselfish love is the prayer of Jesus for the people nailing Him to the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This prayer had no taint of selfishness. He truly loved His enemies as He asked us to do (Matthew 5:44). This same attitude was given to Stephen when he was murdered: “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59, 60).
Jesus came here to live so we can live. He gives us His life, not just to wipe away a record of our past sins, but also to live on the inside so that His righteous life can be revealed in us (Romans 8:1-4). The Bible says, “…that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10).
Just hours before Jesus was nailed to the cross He revealed what was on His mind, and He was thinking about us. Jesus prayed to His Father, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:19, 20). Jesus did what He did for our sakes. He, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising [disregarding] the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). The joy that was set before Him was our salvation. Isaiah prophesied of Him, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). Jesus knows what we are worth, and He is satisfied.
We are the motivation for why Jesus lived the way He did (John 17:19). Our value is set at a much higher level than any of our accomplishments. We would sell ourselves short if we placed our value on the things that we have done. Give God the glory, for it is only through Him that we can do anything good (Mark 10:18; Philemon 1:6).
May the knowledge of the love that God and His Son have for you be the motive for all that you do. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2). God is eager to shine through all the avenues of your life. Go and do amazing things because God loves you!