Pure motives are important in the kingdom of God. God wants people in the world to come whose hearts are right. That’s why He is called Bochen Levavot, “tester of the hearts.”
I Chronicles 28:9
The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.
Many people think they are serving the Lord with the right motives, when actually they have some ulterior, self-serving motive that is being covered up.
All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
When a person is born again, the most basic level of his heart motivation is changed. From that time on, his primary spiritual instinct is right. Yet even then, there are layers of more subtle selfish motivations that must be corrected. That may be seen as the process of sanctification.
Unfortunately, many people trying to serve the Lord today, even in full time ministry, are doing so with partially wrong motives.
The Sermon on the Mount deals with the universal phenomenon that a person’s actions may seem right on the outside, but the motivations of his heart may be wrong. Even such praise-worthy actions as giving money to the poor or prayer with fasting can be motivated by wanting other people to think you are spiritual. That’s what hypocrisy is.
The Law of Moses defines for us what are right actions. And they are the right actions. However, the Lord wants not only right actions, but right motives. That’s where the cross comes in. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were influenced by lust and pride. Therefore, any action that is to be right before God must be purged of pride and lust.
Pride blinds a person to spiritual truth (Matt. 11), and lust deceives a person about moral values (Eph. 4). The Law deals with right actions, and the cross deals with right motives. For any action to be wholly right before God, it must have an element of death-to-self in it.
The death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) is the master pattern for all righteous deeds. The cross is the doorway to the world to come; it is a sieve to filter out wrong motives; and it is the test by which our lives will be judged.
I Corinthians 4:5
When the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
Therefore, right motives are part of our judgment in the world to come. Those seemingly good deeds in this life that were born of self-centered motives will not be rewarded. Those deeds born of pure motives will be. Sometimes it scares me to think of how much is done in ministry leadership out of self-justifying motives.
In Israel we have a particular problem with this. Because it is the “holy land”, there is a certain attraction to ministry here. Because of the spiritual warfare involved, it has been difficult to produce fruit. This may be the only country in the world where there are more “ministers” than “believers.” Whatever is done here in ministry is photographed, published, exaggerated about, and then used for fundraising.
Of course, this is not just a problem for Israel, but a challenge to those “in ministry” everywhere in the world. God help us.
I Thessalonians 2:3-5
The appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you… We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts… We never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed.
Please read that again. We have to minister out of pure motives. We should preach in a way that will not seek to please people in a humanistic way. We are not to let our choices in ministry be based on whether we can gain money from it.
Some pastors tell people that they need to submit to the local congregation, not in order to edify the people, but to build up the numbers of their flock. They tell people to tithe, not so much to further the gospel and bless the people, but in order to raise their salaries and meet their budgets.
Some teach a theology of grace without any moral challenge. That simply produces a subculture that justifies sensual lifestyle in the name of Christ (Gal. 5:13). Some husbands tell their wives to submit, not to sanctify them into the image of Christ (Eph. 5), but to manipulate them to serve their lusts. Sometimes we even pray with the hidden motivation of serving our own lusts (James 4:3)!
The one notable exception to right motivation is sharing the gospel with unbelievers.
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.
Evangelism is a matter of life and death. If a fireman rescues someone from a fire, you don’t care if he is doing it out of motivation to be macho. So what? Just get the person saved. Even when Yeshua rebuked those who had done miracles in His name through false motivation (Matt. 7), He did not mention preaching the gospel.
This issue also works in reverse. Sharing the gospel with unbelievers is one activity that tends to keep the heart clean. The reason that many leaders today have become manipulative and self-serving is that they have distanced themselves from simple personal evangelism. It’s time for some to get off the computer, out of “leadership” meetings, and back to talking to unbelievers about salvation.
Lastly, purity of motives is a central goal of studying the Bible.
“The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and motives of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
We meditate on the scriptures, not so much to gain knowledge, but to change our attitude. Our devotional “method” is one of letting the word penetrate deep within, cutting away at impure motives. It is a daily “surgery” correcting the intentions of our hearts. We allow the word of God to challenge and change our inner motivations.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel – Tikkun Global, August 18, 2022, and reposted with permission.