“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3 NIV
“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”
― Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
My motives are not pure. Never. Ever. And I thank God that he gave me grace for this too. When I give to charity, I’m moved, true, but the joy I receive is a reward. When working with my son on a homework assignment, motive free? No. I want to see my son succeed in the little accomplishments to build his confidence and become a successful adult—proud parent. Loving my spouse is not a pure motive. I want to be a part of his success, well-being, growth—a good wife. When I was baptized, was my motive pure? No, again. I wanted to be saved from death. Giving up a bad habit? No. I want to be healthy and the extras like helping another to do the same solidifies my decision. I don’t believe I’ll be motive-free, agenda-free until I’m in heaven. I’m always receiving. That’s a very good thing.
Yes, God knows this about me. The verses, Ephesians 2: 8, 9 settles it. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” And everything I have, do and give is by God’s generous nature and not by my efforts alone. Even Paul was not immune as he says in Philippians, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Motives.
Before Christ, I was only about me, from looking good, feeling good to accumulating wealth, ignoring the painful — that was the goal. And it does not satisfy—not for long, anyway. In fact, when I do hit a target like exercising every day, or breaking a bad habit, a salary bonus, getting likes on a Facebook page, a new puppy, buying a new car, I’m celebratory. I’m feeling good. But… It does not last. It satisfies for a moment or two and then it’s gone and on to the next thing. Life itself says: “What have you done for me lately?” God cares about our needs but he cares about our motives, too. He wants us to embrace eternity. The only perfect parent.
We will always have motives; the question is where do they lead? Are they empty or filling a void? Are they growth-enhancing or purely selfish? Are they from my father or my self-centered mind? We may not see our true motives when grieving, bankrupt, overcoming trauma, ill or lonely. But faith and hope sustain. They trim the dead branches. They makes us look up. They humble. They teach—that consequences thing.
Just as the father of the Prodigal said to the Prodigal’s brother, “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. “’ Thank you that we are alive in your Son.
Help us to keep our motives centered on you. Help us to rejoice when another is found. Help us to be glad when another succeeds. Help us to see how much we are loved and share your love with others.