Bat staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

God can use impure motives

Have you ever been unhappy because of the way other people act? Have you ever let other people’s actions affect you or their motivation irritate you?

It’s easy for me to stress out about the condition of the world. We have to live in the world, so a lot of the time I get stuck in mourning how things used to be. Or how they were intended to be, and I forget to focus on the things that matter. And I’ve had such a negative experience with so many churches, it’s easy for me to get pretty unhappy and angry at Christians too.

But I found something in Philippians today that made me stop and think.

Bat staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Bat staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 1:15-19.

It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

Paul was writing this at a time when Christianity was new (sort of), and it was spreading like wildfire throughout the world. Jesus’ disciples had stepped up to the plate big time, on a level that even they could never have imagined before Christ had died and rose again. And because of them, many people had come to believe in Christ and went to spread the Word even farther. So the early Church was off to a great start.

But even then there were people intent on the spotlight.

People don’t change, remember? The same kinds of people will always exist as long as the world is broken. Just as we have “preachers” and “ministers” in our culture now who really only care about the way they look and how many people attend their Sunday services, Paul seems to have encountered the same folks in the first century. But Paul isn’t letting their motivation bother him. He doesn’t care why they’re telling others about Christ. He’s just happy that they’re doing it.

I think that’s crazy. I mean it’s awesome, but how can you rejoice when someone’s motivation is to cause you pain? How can you be happy when people are doing things for the wrong reasons (even if they’re doing the right things)? Well I think I already have the answer. I blogged about it last Friday. We have to know what matters and what doesn’t. It all comes down to understanding what is important to God and what isn’t.

And, yes, motivation matters to God. God cares about why we do things. But only God knows why we do things. Do we grasp that? Only God can see into someone else’s heart. Only God can see my own heart. Only God knows my real motivation and my real intentions. I can tell others what I’m thinking, but only God knows if I’m telling the truth.

God cares about motivation, but that’s something only He can judge.

So if someone is doing the right thing but you suspect they’re doing it for the wrong reasons–don’t worry about it.

This is hard for me because heart and motivation and being genuine is high on my list of character qualities I require from people. And I’m not saying we should just let it go if we have irrefutable evidence that someone’s heart is in the wrong place, especially if you’re in a position to say something about it or if you know that person is going to cause trouble in a family or in a church.

But here’s my problem: I focus on the means rather than the end. And in focusing on the means many times I get discouraged because I start to compare others to myself, and I think that God surely can’t use someone with impure motives.

Guess what? He can. And I am evidence of that fact. Because my motives aren’t always pure.

I’m not saying that the end justifies the means. Not at all. But focusing on someone else’s motivation just usually leads me to compare myself and consider myself better than others, and that’s not true. If someone is telling others about Christ with impure motives, maybe it’s not the best situation; but they’re telling others about Christ. What’s true is true no matter who says it or how it is said, and God can always use truth. God is truth, and that’s not something an impure motive can change.

So don’t stress. Don’t be unhappy because you suspect others don’t have pure motives for the things they’re doing that are right on the outside.

Rejoice for the things you can see that are good, and pray about the things you can’t see. God knows their hearts. God knows their intentions. And He’s big enough to make everything work out.

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