Mirrors Help with Motives

Maybe you’ve had the experience of cruising along in life or work or ministry, thinking you’re doing fine, and then someone drops this little bomb into your productivity parade: “Why?” As in, “Why did you do that, Dave?” Or “Why did you say that, Dave?” Or, more to the point, “What was motivating you, Dave?”

Give me a “what” question any day. I don’t mind so much when people question what I do. Hey, I’m not perfect, everybody makes mistakes. It’s the “why” inquiries that get under my skin.

In God’s view, the result isn’t the only thing that matters. Motives matter—a lot. So, let me ask you: Is there anyone in your life who’s free to ask you the “why” questions? And what happens when someone questions your motives for the “good” things you’re doing?

If we’re doing something good, we maintain the idea that our motives are somehow above question. But there may be no better place to hide selfish motivations than in service to others, even in the church. Service is certainly self-giving, but it can also be tailor-made for cloaking selfish ambition.

In fact, I think a lot of divisions in churches happen because folks aren’t willing to have their motives questioned. They’ll argue fine points of theology, ecclesiology, mis­siology, pneumatology—all kinds of “ologies”—but they never put on the table a very simple question: “Why does this matter to me so much?”

This also comes into play in what we say. Our world loves con­versation. We love to talk about ideas, art, culture, life—bring it on!

Conversation is cool. I love it myself. But sometimes we want to con­verse about ideas and life as if our talk is disconnected from our heart. We unsuspectingly do what Scripture never permits—we detach our motives from our mouth, forgetting that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).

Unknowingly, we end up in a dangerous place. When our inner world isn’t open to scrutiny, our outer world eventually collapses.

If you ever find yourself insisting your motives are unpolluted—Maybe what I said wasn’t right, but my motives were pure—get out of the shadows and back to your Bible. God’s love is so vast that He takes great interest in every aspect of the reasons behind everything we do. One of the ways He shows this remarkable love is by giving us mirrors for our motives.

Let me tell you about something I’ve done that’s difficult for me. I’ve cracked open the window of evaluation to the level of motives. Yep, I’m talking speech, action, the whole shebang. It was simple but a little hairy to tell my wife, kids, and friends that I want this degree of help. Why do I want it? Because motives matter. My only link to biblical reality is to keep “why” in the picture.

*This article is based on Dave's book, Rescuing Ambition.

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