Assigning Motives

Do you find it easy to assign a motive to someone? To think you know why a person is doing whatever it is she is doing? To think you understand what makes her tick?

To those who said, yes, let me ask another question: when you assign a motive to someone, do you usually assign a good motive or a bad motive? Do you usually conclude that a person is doing something because he really means well and has the interests of others and the will of God as his motive? Or do you usually conclude that a person is being motivated by self-will and self-interest?

Truth is, we do not know another’s heart. We cannot know what is deep within the heart of another, motivating her to do what she does. God knows, but we don’t. And assigning motives is just another way we try to wrest control from God. Another way we try to play God rather than living out our humanity.

I need to, we all need to, embrace our humanity with its limitations, let God be God, and accept that we cannot know what motivates another. Further, I am blessed when I give a person “the benefit of the doubt,” as we say. That is, when faced with the fact that I am human and therefore do not know what drives another person, I assume the best when it comes to his motive.

But there is an even bigger problem as I see it. We do know God’s motives. God has revealed His heart to us. We know what motivates God. Has He not told us of His love? And yet we sometimes assign a different motive to God. We sometimes interpret what God has intended to be a gift of His love as something meant to harm.

We do not know the hearts of people, yet we assign motives to them. We do know the heart of God and we sometimes assign a motive different from what He has revealed to us.

For example, in Deuteronomy the people of God intepreted God’s loving and gracious act of delivering them from Egypt as something intended to hurt them. Did God bring us out of Egypt so we would starve and die in the wilderness? It sounds silly, but when I am honest, I have to admit I have done the very same thing — interpreted a gift of God’s love and grace as something very different.

God, help me to accept the fact that I cannot read the heart of another human. Help me to give them the benefit of the doubt. And at the same time, help me to realize You have revealed Your heart to us. And help me to interpret everything in light of what I know about You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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