Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 20, 1969
NUMBER 41, PAGE 6b-7a


B. G. Echols

For man to function in any capacity, he must have sufficient motivation. The same act, however, may result from many and contradictory motives. Three men purchase a new car. All the purchases are identical. The first had a car that was old and barely functioning. He needed a form of transportation. His motive was utility. The second man had figured all the financial factors involved and felt that it was the best time to trade. His motive was economics. The third man buys a new car every year because he always wants the latest model. His motive is pride. While the acts were identical, the motives were different.

Jesus is interested in man's outward acts, but He is also concerned with the motivation behind those acts. Our obedience to the gospel must conform to the pattern presented in the New Testament. We cannot substitute any act for what God has commanded. But a person can outwardly conform to the pattern and not obey at all, if his motive is not right. Thus Paul says, "But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered" (Romans 6:17). Here both the pattern and the motive are stressed. Obedience must be from the heart.

So it is with all our service to God. Worship must be "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). We are to "love one another from the heart fervently" (I Peter 1:22). The Lord warned against improper motives when He said, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them; else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1). A desire for human recognition or notoriety removes any hope of reward from the Father. If our desire is to be seen, when men have seen us, verily we have our reward, our only reward. Only the pure in heart shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

People can have the correct motives, but perform the wrong acts because of their ignorance of God's righteousness (Romans 10:2,3). This is true of every sincere, but untaught, religionist from the pagan in the African bush to the modern sectarian following the tradition of his family. They must be taught to search out the right ways of the Lord (II Tim. 3:16,17;2:15).

There is a danger of deceiving ourselves into believing we are pleasing God because outwardly our acts conform, while our motives for the acts are wrong. Singing is truly Scriptural, but if such does not come from the heart, it is vain (Ephesians 5:19). Public prayers are acceptable to God, if the motive is correct. Otherwise, they are an abomination to Him (Luke 18:11,12).

In areas of judgment where no specific instruction is given, the danger of improper motives becoming a determining factor is greater. There is no precise basis for judging the outward act. Thus we may deceive ourselves into thinking that we have God's work first, while in reality we are seeking a monument to our pride. Preachers may speak of their desire for degrees and worldly knowledge to better serve Christ, but really desire the praise of men for their scholarship. We may say our form of dress is to give the Lord the best we can, but it may be the result of a desire to be noted for our stylishness. The type of building we have may honestly be the result of a desire to best facilitate God's will, or an effort to be noted for human accomplishment.

No man can know our motives. We need to search our hearts to see if our motives are truly to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), or if we are interested in what men will think and say. While men cannot know our purposes, God can. When the Lord comes He will "both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart" (I Cor. 4:5).

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