Above the Sun: Decision-making principles: Are my motives selfish or unselfish?

What does it matter if my decisions are based on selfish or unselfish motives? 

The short answer: God wants us to think of others first.

James 4:3 tells his readers that the reason they did not receive from God what they asked for was because they asked with wrong motives. James said their motive was strictly pleasure. He said we cannot be friends with the world and with God. In fact, James said, “Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

God not only places this much importance on our motives in dealing with the subject of prayer and our intent when we approach Him, this frame of mind is also important in our everyday life. God cares about our motives, not just what we do and say, but why we do and say.

Remember, God is patient with us and does not want anyone to lose their soul. That is why He urges us to pattern our lives after Jesus and walk by His Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit, and verse 25 tells us we should stay in step with the Spirit. None of the Spirit’s qualities such as love, joy, and peace have anything to do with selfishness, and in Philippians 4:8, we are told to think about things that are pure and lovely. Selfishness somehow did not make the list of things to think about.

The apostle Paul said that when the Lord comes, He will expose motives of the heart and give praise to those who prove faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-5). I sometimes wonder if any of us would live our lives more faithful to God if punishment for wrong motives and disobedience were immediate. I don’t know. In the Old Testament days, God was more immediate in this regard, but it did not seem to have any effect. People have always been stubborn and rebellious. But make no mistake about it, just because people are not punished immediately for sin does not mean God has forgotten.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul hits this topic head on:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5). He proceeds to write about the humility Christ showed by putting His own comforts aside in order to save us.

Paul told a much younger Timothy that devoting himself to God’s word would not only result in salvation for himself but for those who learned from Timothy’s example (1 Timothy 4:15-16).

Our motives really do matter. So many times, people we thought were honest turn out to be dishonest, or were only doing something for selfish reasons. That is so disheartening. May we all strive to be pure in heart in everything we say, do, and think. 

Have a great week.

Barrett Vanlandingham is the Youth Minister at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ. Reach him at (918) 478-2222 or barrettvanlandingham@gmail.com.

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