You cannot read much of the Bible before you get the idea that God is more interested in your motives than your actions. Often your motive can turn an otherwise good deed into sin. You may give a big sum of money and that is good. But if you give it to be seen of men, it becomes pride and this is sin.
Consider Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They did a very generous thing. They sold some property and gave a lot of the proceeds to the church. Their only problem was their motive.
Acts 5:3-4 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
It wasn’t the fact that they didn’t give all the money to the church. It was that they said they gave all of it to the church. Their motive was not pure.They were concerned about other people’s perception of them so they lied about what they did. If God judged us in the same way today, how many of us would still be alive?
The wrong motive can also hinder God’s power.
1 Corin 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Please note that Paul says that if he had preached using clever speech, it would have made the cross of Christ void. He then goes on to say that the word of the cross is the power of God. When we consider what we hear from the pulpits today, it is no wonder that there is no power in our churches. If a pastor preaches with the motive of showing how knowledgeable he is, there will be no power to accomplish his goals. Meaningful change in the hearts and lives of people can only be accomplished by the power of God. So why do we hear so much psychology from the pulpit? It has no power to change a life.
The church is dying! Not because we have too little planning, or too few heart wrenching stories, or non professional singing, or non-padded pews, or because we are not seeker friendly, or because we have too few programs, or too few staff, or the wrong song books, or not enough money. Our churches are dying because Jesus Christ is not the center of every decision we make, every song we sing, every sermon that is preached, every prayer that is prayed, and every program that is started. If the exaltation of Jesus Christ is not at the center of every plan we make, we plan in vain because there will be no power to bring the results that we had planned. There has been a whole industry built upon “church growth”. There are seminars, books, videos, and programs. Has anyone stopped to think about the suppositions we must make if we think that church growth can be programmed and packaged? John 6:44 says “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him;…” How do we program that into a church growth strategy?
Wrong motives also deprives us of rewards in heaven.
Matt 6:1-2 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
So we can either have our rewards here, or in heaven but not both. Even if we don’t get the rewards here that we seek, if our motives were skewed we still won’t get the reward in heaven.
We need to continually ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our true motives to us and to purify our motives. The heart is evil and desperately wicked and we are capable of deceiving ourselves.