I find that it is in our nature to easily and quickly question the motives of other people; while at the same time we are slow to question our own. Many times when we are offended by others, we quickly assume that their motives were intentional and hurtful. Yet when the situation is reversed and we are the ones that have offended we many times are quick to make excuses for our offense, believing that others are just too sensitive.
We may do things that we believe are proven and true, but we are to be reminded that God is the judge of our motives, as He weighs the spirit of a person. What this means is that He searches and tries each one of our hearts, thoughts, and minds. It is God—and God alone—that sees all, and knows all. He sees, and knows all of our actions. He observes what is the nature and quality of all that we do. It is God, and God alone, that stands with a pair of scales in his hands, weighing precisely our deeds, our intentions, and the results of same. He is omniscient and He judges based on truth and justice, in the balance of the sanctuary, according to His righteousness.
We as believers are to seek Him to have our hearts and minds stayed on Him, and as we interact with the hearts of others, we are to do so as directed by His faith and His love. Being that we are born of a carnal nature, and limited in our own natural wisdom, we many times can only see as far as our own hands when judging ourselves and our own actions. Regardless of how we monitor and perceive our own motives, He will examine our motives in His wisdom.
I have had people ask me, “is it possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason?” The answer is, yes it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason.
We read in Isaiah where people were attending worship services, but worshiping God with unclean hearts. They were doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason. God tells them in Isaiah 1:15
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.
God replies here, and in many of the following verses, that worship and “playing church” will not be acceptable to Him unless it is a pure, unadulterated offering from the heart. He demands righteousness from us—His children. That righteousness, in and of ourselves, we cannot obtain. It is only in the blood of Christ Jesus where can find cleansing and forgiveness of our sins. It is by His blood we are atoned and able to stand before God as we are covered by the blood of the Lamb. We must come before God in the righteousness of Christ—without this, all external offerings and worship are in vain.
We read of such people in Proverbs 30:12- There are those who are clean in their own eyes, but are not washed of their filth.
God seeks the offerings of pure worshippers; those whose hearts and minds are stayed on Christ, and are walking in relationship with Him. He does not desire—nor will He hear or accept—worship or sacrifice from the hypocritical and the profane, regardless of their actions, no matter how right they might seem to man.
Although they were going to church because it was the right thing to do, they were just going through the motives, but God knew their hearts, and saw the truth of their motives. God instructed them before they were to come and pretend to worship Him, to first wash their hearts and make them clean before Him. He tells them to stop living unclean lives, and to stop intentionally doing wrong and evil deeds. The sentiment here is, that because they indulged in sin, and came—even in their prayers—with a determination still to indulge in it with unclean hearts and impure motives, God would not hear them.
Psalm 66:18 : ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me;’
This is the reason why many prayers are not heard –we must come before our Lord, in pureness of heart and with actions that are motivated by innocent thoughts and desires. The truth is abundantly taught in God’s Holy Word, that if we will forsake our sins, and come before Him, honestly and humbly; our sin, no matter how great, is no obstacle to forgiveness.
He instructs them to clean up their hearts and motives, and He will help them, and in return forgive their sins. God instructs them to “learn to do right” in Isaiah 1:17, and in then in verse 18 He says-
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall become as white as snow.
We are able to kneel at the altar and sacrifice of Christ Jesus, and to bathe our sin in the fountain of his blood. We are able to find our righteousness in virtue and efficacy of his blood and sacrifice. We are recipients of God’s grace and mercy through Christ, and we are promised in His Word that He will forgive us if we repent and confess before Him our sin. God reasons with all of us in His Word to see the sacrifice of Christ and to be sensible, humble, thankful, and to partake of His covenant promises and proclamations to forgive sin. In pureness of heart, and with innocent motives, we receive His grace over sin; we receive the righteousness of Christ to justify, we receive his blood to cleanse from sin, and we receive his sacrifice to atone for it.
Then we are the children of God in Christ, washed in his blood, and clothed with his righteousness. God seeing no iniquity in us, He will deal graciously with us, and we will be found without fault, spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. It is then we can stand and worship before God and freely receive.
Let us be reminded that many things can cause us to do what we do. We have the choice to let our actions be motivated by compassion, love, and faith—rather than selfish motives such as pride, lust, greed, and personal ambition.
James 4:3 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures.
As we read in Isaiah 1, we can do the right things based on the wrong motives, and this is unacceptable to God. Let all we do be based on the love that we have freely received from Christ, and in all our actions and motives let it be that love that is our guide. Let us stop and check our actions and motives to see what lies behind them as we interact with God and others. Let us ask God what He sees in us when he weighs our motives.
1 Corinthians 16:14 -Let all that you do be done from motives of love.