I’m not sure I think much about my motives until my actions are called into question or I experience some type of conflict in my life. If you have been an educator very long, you have probably experienced a time when a parent, colleague, administrator, or even student accused you of being unfair, playing favorites, or having a hidden agenda. Accusations of this nature are hard to swallow because they strike at the core of who we are—our motives.
I’ve been reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and was surprised to learn he was accused of being unreliable and untrustworthy (2 Corinthians 1). I imagine this had to sting since Paul was instrumental in establishing the church in Corinth as well as ministering to them for several years. Paul truly loved the believers and desired that they become spiritually mature so they could have a Godly influence on their world. His motives were pure, but evidently others didn’t think so.
I was amazed at how Paul chose to handle this unfair and uncomfortable situation. I have to admit; when my integrity is challenged, my first response is to be defensive. It’s so easy for me to take an attack personally and lose sight of an opportunity God has placed before me. Paul did not get angry or rush to judgement; however, he did not remain silent either. He used the accusations as an opportunity to defend his ministry, clarify his motives, and acknowledge God’s grace. His response serves as an example for all of us.
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. 2 Corinthians 1:12
First, speak up! Depending on your personality, this can be the first obstacle to overcome! It’s hard to stand up for ourselves sometimes. It may be easier to wait it out, hoping the situation will go away. This is when we have to stop and do a “motive check.” If our motive is to avoid conflict or protect ourselves, then this might be an acceptable response. However, if our motive is to reflect Christ, then speaking truth with love is the better option. This is especially true if we, like Paul, can honestly say we have conducted ourselves with pure motives and Godly sincerity. If we don’t speak up, we allow misconceptions to flourish, and we miss our chance to set the record straight.
Next, depend on God’s grace. Paul made it clear that their ability to be holy and sincere was God-given. Motive check. This wasn’t about being right. It wasn’t about being liked. It was about grace. Paul never forgot who he was before Jesus entered his life. Because of God’s grace, Paul was a changed man; as a result, it wasn’t about him anymore. Because of God’s grace he no longer had selfish and worldly motives. He no longer had to rely on his own personal judgement. His motive was to glorify God, so his conscious was clear.
In addition, clarify intentions. Sometime accusations are a result of misunderstandings or misinformation based on preconceived ideas. This was the case with Paul. There were many ministers in the church who were insincere and manipulative. Many believed Paul would be the same. Not only that, but these same false teachers tried to make Paul look bad every chance they got. Since Paul was a vocal follower of Christ, it was critical for him to clarify his intentions. Motive check. Paul’s motive was not notoriety. He wasn’t concerned with how he was seen by others. He was concerned about how Christ was perceived. He made sure they knew he could be trusted to be honest and sincere with them. Had he not clarified his intentions, he never would have penned these precious verses.
Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” 2 Corinthians 1:17b-18a.
Paul wanted the believers to know God is faithful and Jesus was true to His word.
Finally, claim the Holy Spirit.
He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised us. 2 Corinthians 1:22
This situation could not have been easy for Paul. He could have responded in a variety of ways, but I am convinced the presence of the Holy Spirit in his heart empowered him to respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Motive check. Paul’s motive was not self-sufficiency or self-preservation. As a result, he was reliant on an all-sufficient God who provided the confidant assurance he needed to be bold in his response.
Paul’s experience has caused me to think deeply about my own motives. I think it is best to stop every now and then and do our own “motive check,” preferably BEFORE conflicts arise. This may seem a bit weird, but after reading these passages, I wrote a capital “M” on my palm. Every time I looked at my hand, I did a “motive check.” I‘m not there yet, but I want to be like Paul when he said, “We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings.”
If we are going to be able to live with God-given holiness, we are going to have to let go of the world’s motives. The world has an intense desire to…
· be right.
· be first.
· be liked.
· be recognized.
· be rewarded.
· be wealthy.
We need to replace these motives with the desire to…
· reflect Christ.
· honor God.
· glorify God.
· prove God faithful.
When you think about it, our motives truly do affect our attitude, actions, character, and conduct. There is no doubt we will continue to fail, but God sees our heart. He knows our motives, and He promises to walk along side us as we submit to His Lordship in our lives.
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18b
Take some time this week to do your own “motive check,” even if it means writing an “M” on your palm!