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Last updated Wed Jun 4, 8:25 AM EDT

OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            The word “motive” is defined as:  “something that causes a person to act a certain way, or, do a certain thing.”  The word revolves around such words as “move” and “motion.”  Motives cause certain movements.  They cause us to carry out certain behaviors.  They are motivators.  They move us, yea, drive us to engage in various activities.

            Motives are something that come from within the individual.  They originate within the heart.  Solomon said:  “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Prov. 23:7).  Earlier in Proverbs, the wise man taught that the “issues of life” spring forth from the heart (Prov. 4:23).  Because this is true, he exhorts his readers to keep their hearts with all diligence.  The reason for this admonition is because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jer. 17:9).  After this description of the heart, he asks:  “Who can know it?”

            It is difficult for others to judge our motives because they do originate within our hearts.  It is easy for us to deny our real intentions.  We can boldly tell another:  “You cannot judge my heart.”  Or, we can say:  “You do not know what is in my heart.”  It could be that they accurately assessed our motive, but because motives spring from within, we can easily lie about them.  At that point, the accuser is at a loss.  He is absolutely right in his judgment, but has no way to prove his accusation. 

            As children of God, we must do all in our power to operate out of the purest of motives.  Psalm 51:6 tell us:  “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts…”  A New Testament passage that teaches this truth is Matthew 5:8.  “Blessed are the pure in heart:  for they shall see God.” God is just as concerned about the motive of an action as He is the action itself.  An action can be good, but the motive can be evil.  When this is the case, God is not well pleased.  Jesus taught this lesson to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 6:1 records these words:  “Take heed that ye do not your alms before me, to be seen of them:  otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”  It is good to give alms, but if they are given for the wrong reason God is not pleased.  Right actions plus wrong motives equal God’s disapproval.

            Here is one thing that we can always be sure of when it comes to our motives.  God knows them.  How does He know?  He knows because He can see the hearts of men.


But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him:  for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

(I Samuel 16:7)


Hell and destruction are before the Lord:  how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

(Prov. 15:11)


Every way of man is right in his own eyes:  but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

(Proverbs 21:2)


I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

(Jeremiah 17:10)


And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen.

(Acts 1:24)


Before we do anything, we need to be able to say as David:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart:  try me, and know my thoughts” (Ps. 139:23).  We do not say this because God does not know.  We say this to insure that we are doing things with the holiest motives possible.

            My friends, we can cover up our evil motives here.  No man may ever know exactly why we do what we do.  In fact, our hearts can even deceive ourselves.  But, one day all of our motives will be revealed.  “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14).  Therefore, while we are living here, let us pray as David did:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).