Have you ever watched the TV show “CSI”? Perhaps you have caught an episode or two of “Law and Order,” “Castle,” “Bones,” or watched a televised trial? The point is, if you’ve watched any crime scene investigation show, you will know that the first question always asked by those probing the crime committed is, “What is the motive?”
In the life of the believer, God seeks to reveal the answer to that same question.
What does “motive” mean?
Simply put, our motives are the driving force behind how we act and react, the decisions and choices we make, what we value, as well as the words we speak.
I call them heart motives. (Proverbs 4:23)
Our heart motives are hidden and not obvious to others. People see only what we want them to see or what they choose to see.
God, however, sees our true heart motives (I Sam 16:7). He values the “why” we do something more than the “what” we do.
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him…for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
I Chronicles 28:9 NIV
Why do I pray? Why do I go to church? Why do I fast? Why do I volunteer to help in Sunday School? Why do I take on the organization of our Easter pageant every year? Why am I going on this mission trip? Why do I preach?
“God’s pleasure or displeasure is not founded upon the principle of good and evil. Rather, God traces the source of all things. An action may be quite correct, yet God inquires, what is its origin?”
The bottom line is that our motives usually expect benefits in return. Therefore, it is possible to be doing right things for all the wrong reasons (James 4:2-3).
Knowing that we tend to find it easier to weed the gardens of others, God uses the CSI test to reveal to us the weeds growing in our own backyards. The CSI (motivation) test occurs when God withholds the expected benefits, thus revealing to us what is truly driving our decisions and actions.
When I serve faithfully in my church but no one acknowledges it.
When I work hard for my family but never hear a word of thanks.
Withholding the benefits to us, God reveals the truth…our true, often impure, heart motives.
We may work to gain the approval and respect of others (Matt 6:1-5), to gain love, a or material things (I John 2:15-17). Fear may be what drives us (we want to avoid discomfort, embarrassment), or it may be perfectionism. These are just a few wrong motives that may be the driving forces in our lives. The bottom line is – wrong motives mean wrong focus. Our focus is on “I,” rather than on “I AM.”
The Result of Wrong Motives
We try to manipulate or bargain with God in order to get what we want.
If I fast, then God will have to answer my prayers.
We manipulate and mistreat others to gain the perceived benefits.
We steal God’s glory (John 3:30).
We limit our service and sacrifice to only those areas that will prove advantageous, causing us to be less than what God intends.
I will give only as long as God gives back.
I will worship only if I find blessing and fulfillment.
I will serve only as long as people notice and offer me praise.
We compromise Biblical guiding values in order to gain benefit.
The purpose of the CSI test is to get us to the place where our focus is not on “me” but on God (Psalm 139:23-24). The driving force behind our motives must be, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
Admittedly, our motives maybe mixed at best.
There are areas where we do right with the right focus. There are areas where we do right with wrong motives, as well as times when we do wrong with wrong motives.
What is the answer?
Living the life of a believer is not a 100-meter dash but a marathon!
Do we quit running the race; quit serving and helping because our motives are mixed?
When the CSI test reveals wrong motives, we need to stop and evaluate. We need to ask God to show us the next step. Sometimes, we may need to remove ourselves from the task while we evaluate our motives, because, by our participation, we may be hindering the Holy Spirit. God may show us that we are doing a task He never intended for US to do. Our wrong motives may be causing us to rob someone else of an area of service God had for them.
However, we must not allow our struggle with motives to keep us from doing anything at all! “Well, my heart isn’t in it, so I won’t do it.” The problem arises when we use motives as an excuse to do nothing.
Sometimes, we must press on allowing God’s CSI test to do its job—reveal our wrong motives so that He may transform them. We may have started out with the wrong focus, but after taking the test, we finish doing right with right motives. Sometimes, it is not about how we started, but how we finish!
Our desire should be to do right things for the right reasons, and the more we transform our thinking to Christ’s way of thinking, the more choices, actions, and decisions we will make with the proper heart motives. We cannot change our wrong thinking to God’s thinking apart from the Word of God. If you are not spending time in the truth, then you will not be able to recognize the truth from lies (John 17:17). We cannot know when God wants us to step down or press on if we are not seeking His direction.
Instead of fighting the CSI test, let us be intentional about evaluating the different areas of our lives by asking, “What is the motive?” “What is truly driving me?”
Strengthen those areas where you are doing right for the right reasons. Where you find wrong motives, recognize those areas and change your focus. Do not belittle yourself when you mess up. That only gives the devil satisfaction. Recognize it, repent, and move on!