Tag Archives: intentions

Our Motives, Intentions and Attitudes [Toward Others]—Part 2

I’ll never forget it. My first thought was, “What was his motive or motives for such a horrendous act?”

In 2009, the New York Times reported that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a military psychiatrist, shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the Fort Hood Army base in Central Texas. ¹

Last week, I wondered about the motives of whoever was sending package bombs to media and political figures around the country.

Fortunately, the police and FBI arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, of South Florida as the prime suspect in the bomb mailings. Based on evidence collected so far, his motive appears to be extreme hatred of left-learning politicians and public figures.

Being a sociology major, I am extremely interested in what makes people tick. Crime shows fascinate me. In these shows, the question of motives always comes up either in the show or within my own mind.

Why Do We Want to Know a Person’s Motive?

  • To indulge our curiosity;
  • To know how to prevent future civil or moral disobedience;
  • To judge others;
  • To know how we can help solve others’ problems through acts of kindness; or
  • To pray for them.

In my blog titled Our Motives, Intentions, and Attitudes – Part 1, we discussed how to analyze our own motives. In Part 2, we will be looking into how we judge other people’s motives and whether it is right or wrong to do so from a Biblical perspective.

As we approach this topic, let’s remember that as we look upon the motives of others, they are looking back at us with the same inquiring mind, wondering, in turn, what our motives might be. Sometimes it is obvious; other times it is not.

When we judge (or try to analyze) the motives of others, our own belief system, personal experiences, desires, and other peripheral factors always come into play—affecting our perception of others.

Are We Judging Others When We Look at Their Motives?

It depends!

Motives can be good or bad, so we must balance how we view motives very carefully: we can’t always determine the motives of a person just by their behavior, deeds, or talk.

I must admit, when I was in my early twenties, I went to Sunday School to learn about God, but I had a double-motive. I wanted to find some dating possibilities. My motivation was what most Christ-followers can accept—the desire to find and date someone with like spiritual beliefs. While not 100% pure motives were involved, most accept and understand my dual motives.

Scrutinizing others’ motives should entail looking at our fellow human beings with the goal of glorifying God. Our words and thoughts should be gentle and humble—always seeking the best outcome for the other person. In this scenario, we would be looking at others in a righteous manner.

When we look at motives in an unrighteous way, our judgments are usually inconsistent with the way Jesus looks at us. Rudeness, roughness, humiliation and deviating from looking at others through the eyes of our Lord is prevalent today. Just look at many of our current political debates where intolerance and a lack of respect exist.

In 1 Chronicles 19, David was fleeing from King Saul and he received help from the Ammonite King Nahash. Nahash and David teamed up and together took on Saul and his army. Nahash eventually died and David, who succeeded Saul as King of Israel, tried to reach out to Nahash’s son King Hanun, but Hanun and his advisors became leery of David’s motives.

David’s men tried to express sorrow for Nahash’s death. Instead of accepting David’s offer of peace and alliance, Hanun humiliated the envoys by shaving their beards and cutting off their garments in the middle.

If Nahash would have taken the time to confirm David’s intentions, things would have turned out differently. Instead of harmonious relations, war broke out between them, and Israel defeated Nahash’s kingdom in Aram.

It didn’t take long for Hanun to decide that King David was insincere in reaching out to give consolation regarding his father’s death. But, he was dead wrong in his analysis.

King Hanun was easily influenced by his princes. Just like Hanun, we allow our friends, spouses, employees and previous experiences to color our attitudes, knowing full-well that adhering to God’s Word should be the primary motive in guiding our actions. Hanun’s princes should have given him time to think through and evaluate David’s kindness.

Instead they asked:

  • Do you think that David’s servants came to Hanum in the land of the people of Ammon to comfort him?
  • Did you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you?
  • Did his servants not come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?

In these questions, we see an unreliable group of people who probably had their own motives and agenda in mind to influence the King.

When we look at others, our mind, soul and spirit should be in alignment with the mind of Christ. Seeking God’s perspective on our psyche, spiritual life, and experiences guides us to a true discernment of a person’s motives; this helps us assist them in becoming in tune with God’s ultimate will for their lives.

Through prayer, the Holy Spirit’s guidance and a deep desire to live in the spiritual realm, we can gain an understanding of the intentions of others—most of the time!

The Bible says,

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Luke 6:37)

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “We Are Not to Judge Others”?

In an article titled, What does the Bible mean that we are not to judge others? by GotQuestions.org, it says:

  • The Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean there should be no mechanism for dealing with sin. Christians are often accused of judging or intolerance when they speak out against sin. But opposing sin is not wrong.
  • The Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean we cannot show discernment. Jesus is giving us permission to tell right from wrong. In Matthew 7:15-16, Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them”—the false prophets.
  • Jesus gives a direct command to judge: Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. (John 7:24)
  • We are always to be gentle toward everyone. Harsh, unforgiving judgment is wrong. (Titus 3:2)
  • Self-righteous judgment is wrong. We are called to humility, and God opposes the proud. (James 4:6)
  • Untrue judgment is wrong. The Bible says to slander no one. (Titus 3:2)
  • Believers are warned against judging others unfairly or unrighteously, but Jesus commends right judgment. (John 7:24) ²

When sin is involved, discerning the motives of others might be the difference between leading a person back to the Lord or letting him continue in sin, thus having him miss out on God’s best for his life.

One time, a prominent member on the school board of the Christian school where I was employed either didn’t like me or misunderstood my motives. Unfortunately, it resulted in me losing my job. Being unjustly criticized (without recourse) by another purported Christ-follower was an extremely painful experience. In a situation like this, a discussion of the situation would have been very helpful in my understanding the member’s motives and, eventually, my forgiving this action. Instead, long years of speculation have occurred.

Another time, one of my best friends misunderstood why I did not congratulate her and her daughter when they “walked down the aisle” upon her daughter’s acceptance of Christ. I was oblivious to the hurt feelings my friend experienced and how upset she was with me. Providentially, my friend called me up and brought my attention to her hurt feelings; thus, reconciliation occurred immediately.

In the first situation, there was no room for discussion, and years and years have passed where I am still haunted about what happened regarding “being let go” because there was no resolution.

In the second scenario, motives were discussed, handled, forgiven, and we were able to move on to a life-long friendship which is deeper than ever because we learned the correct way to handle it.

Discerning the Motives of Others

Reading others’ motives is a skill.

It’s important to remember that not all people’s motives are bad. Many motives are downright positive, e.g. wanting to help someone be all the Lord wants them to be.

In How to Read People’s Motives by Western Mastery, this article discusses why we might want to discern the motives of others.

Their reasoning is because when we know the motives of others, it helps us to know their intentions, helps us to gain insight, how to respond, and how to address their behaviors; ³

When we want to help others to yield their lives to Christ and to His character, discerning their motives might be just the catalyst the Lord wants to use to change their lives.

Misreading the Intentions of Others

On the other hand, it is extremely easy to make a snap judgment about someone or their behavior. Misreading others’ intentions is quite probable. We can misconstrue why people are jealous, fearful, and/or lazy.

We must be extremely careful not to undermine a person or their behavior without cause.

For instance, jealousy can cause a person to question a comrade’s motives because they might feel that their comrade is taking a rightly-earned place or position which the person believes should have instead been his own. Tragically, misreading motives could lead to future scheming, avoidance or even feeling unduly threatened or resentful in the comrade’s presence. In the workplace, this could culminate in a co-worker believing they deserve the promotion or the higher-paying position when, in fact, they do not deserve either one.

What Should We Do When We Question the Motives of Others?

Let’s face it—we are human beings and we sometimes wonder about the motives of others. It may be a cursory glance or a scrutinizing in-depth evaluation.

Some tips are:

  • Don’t rely on a preconceived notion about others. People change. God DOES change people;
  • Don’t depend exclusively on first impressions or our intuition;
  • Find out all the facts before judging a person’s motives (and especially before addressing them);
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes; and
  • If you have misjudged someone, apologize and reconcile as soon as possible.

A person’s background, personality, and life experiences may clash with yours, but that doesn’t make you right all the time and them wrong.

Being raised for most of my formative years in London, England or in the northeastern part of the United States, I may not think like some of my friends who were raised in the deep South. My life experiences and spiritual experiences are different than others, but I hope and pray that my friends and acquaintances will look at me through the eyes of God—instead of through my idiosyncrasies.

And especially not in a judgmental way.

When we depend on the Lord, our thinking about others and their motives will be guided by His light and in His wisdom. When we pursue God, He will show us any behaviors or actions He wants us address. Christian love and compassion should rule in our hearts—not negativity or criticism.

In his blog entry about motives, Joshua Kennon warns: “A final word of caution: I would urge you to consider keeping your thoughts on another person’s motivation to yourself.” ⁴ Until Jesus gives you the spiritual wisdom to discern where a person is coming from, keep your ears and eyes open for when, how or even whether you should speak.

When God gives us His wisdom, He will also give us guidance to know how to spur a person to hear God’s voice and experience a deep passion to follow Christ’s will.

Now, that is not being “judgmental”. Far from it!

It’s being a servant of God.

Bible Verses:

All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. (Proverbs 16:2)

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. (John 7:24)

A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23)

I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)


Dear Jesus,

I am prone at times to wonder what the thoughts or motives are of others are. I also understand that people, even those I consider friends, question my motives every now and then. I occasionally need my motives questioned and confronted in love. God, please give me Your mind. Give me Your discernment. Give me Your patience. Give me Your ability to speak only when You have led me to do so. Let my life be a replica of You. Lord, I want to represent You in all I do. I really do.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

God Bless

Member of IWA-Inspirational Writers Alive!

Member of Biblegateway Bloggers #bgbg2

All Bible verses use the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Edited by E. Johnson

Works Cited

¹ McFadden, Robert D. “Army Doctor Held in Ft. Hood Rampage.” The New York Times, 5 Nov 2009. www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/us/06forthood.html.

² “What does the Bible mean that we are not to judge others?” Accessed 8 Oct 2018. https://www.gotquestions.org/do-not-judge.html.

³ “How to Read People’s Motives.” Western Mastery. December 28, 2016. Accessed 2018.8 Oct 2018. http://www.westernmastery.com/2016/12/28/understanding-the-motivation-behind-peoples-actions/

⁴ Kennon, Joshua. “To Have a More Successful Life, Understand the Motivations and Motives of Yourself and the People Around You.” Accessed 20 Oct 2018. http://JoshuaKeenan.com/motives-and-motivations-matter.

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Our Motives, Intentions and Attitudes—Part 1

Most people have encountered motives in varying degrees. In this blog, we will look at OUR MOTIVES, INTENTIONS and ATTITUDES. These terms will be used interchangeably throughout this post.

In a subsequent blog titled Our Motives, Intentions, and Attitudes [Toward Others]—Part 2, we will discuss how individuals judge and react to the real or perceived motives of others.


Five years ago, when my husband was entertaining the idea of taking a job in Lagos, Nigeria, he asked me if I wanted to go there. I answered immediately with a resounding, “YES!” How did I know to respond so quickly without researching and analyzing the situation in depth? It was because I know my husband, and I knew he always wanted to live overseas. Therefore, I didn’t have to question my motivation for the positive response because my motive was that I wanted to please him. My motive was clear!

Many times, it is the same way with God. By knowing Christ in an intimate way through our Bible reading, prayer and meditation, we can know His motives — as well as what ours should be — rather quickly.

However, at other times and in other situations, our motives may not be so easily discerned.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines motive as, “something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”

Our actions can be beneficial or destructive. A descriptive illustration is that “revenge was the murderer’s motive.” Here we see that because of the motive “revenge”, the action of “murder” occurred.

Motives create a lot of different scenarios. There are . . .

Personal Motives:

  • We wonder if our motives are right or wrong.
  • We know our motives are right.
  • We know our motives are wrong.

Other-Centered Motives:

  • Another person wonders if our motives are right or wrong.
  • Another person knows our motives are right.
  • Another person thinks our motives are wrong.
  • We wonder if another persons’ motives are right or wrong.
  • We know another persons’ motives are right.
  • We think another persons’ motives are wrong.

Hopefully, we can come to a consensus that searching for our true motives will create a deeper understanding of ourselves, others and God. Aligning our will with God’s will increases our spiritual growth, our maturity and our actions. Finding ourselves using more of the fruit of the Spirit is a beneficial outcome of getting deeper into the center of the Lord’s will for our lives.

Absalom’s Motives

In 2 Samuel 15, Absalom, King David’s son, decided to overthrow his father’s throne. Being a personable and popular man, Absalom persuaded many people to agree that he should reign as king in Hebron. Absalom recruited Ahithophel, one of King David’s loyal advisors, to pledge allegiance to himself instead. Absalom caused King David to flee Jerusalem to escape from Absalom—his own son! Remember, motives cause actions.

In this case, Absalom had two motives driving him:

  1. A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT to become king, and
  2. A DESIRE to achieve power

These motives caused him to disrespect his father’s authority and kingship. This is an example of bad motives leading to bad actions.

I wonder what would have happened if Absalom would have turned to God and asked the Lord to show him His motives. It could have changed history!

Bad Motives Lead to Bad Actions

Somewhere along the line Absalom consciously made the decision to end his relationships with his family and plot to backstab David so he could become king. Oh, how it must have hurt David to see his own flesh and blood turn against him!

It happens today as well.

  • Pride may ruin one’s relationship with God.
  • The desire for approval may cause one to lie.
  • A sense of entitlement may be the catalyst for unhappiness, ungodly behavior and stress.
  • Jealousy may be the basis for revenge.
  • Criticism may be the mainspring of hurt feelings and more.

We Can Use Our Personalities to Influence People for Evil

Absalom used his outgoing personality to get people to like him.

Let’s face it, making a first impression is important. When searching for a job, we dress well; we present an impressive resume; we learn how to shake hands the correct way, and we do everything to make a positive impression of ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with that, but in the case of Absalom, his ulterior motive in using his “kind and helpful persona” was to get people to like him so he could overthrow his father’s kingdom and take it for himself.

We see this same behavior in politics, churches, or movements. But, if we are truthful, we see it in ourselves also.

  • Do you act differently at home than at church?
  • Do you volunteer for non-profit organizations to prove you are a good person?
  • Do you help people only to get a reward or recognition?
  • Do you attend church only to make business contacts?
  • Do you pay for others’ meals to show how well off you are?
  • Do you brag about your spiritual gift(s)?
  • Do you desire the limelight at home, church or at the office?
  • Do you spend money you don’t have to impress others?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions (and others not mentioned), our motives are something less than pure.

Acting differently at home than at church, for example, reveals that we are interested in pleasing people in church by adopting a false countenance, yet we “let our hair down” at home where we revert to our less-guarded “normal” behavior. Volunteering to show how “good” we are is a far less noble motive than imitating (and illustrating!) Jesus Christ’s example of servanthood.

In all the cases listed above, our motive is to influence what others think of us. Rather than reflect who we are as Christians, as these acts should, we instead appropriate these actions to manipulate man’s thoughts and take the glory God should receive for ourselves.

We may do these things without realizing that we are doing them, or why. Being unaware or unrepentant of our thoughts or intentions is common.

Reading or listening to God’s Word and spending time in prayer becomes imperative to turn your heart to the Lord. Knowing why we do things and what our motives are is important.

Absalom ruined all family relationships when he decided to spite his father.

  • How many cousin relationships would be destroyed?
  • How many marriages would break up over his actions?
  • What would his life be like estranged from his father?

We may not know the specific answers to these questions regarding Absalom, but be assured, evil decisions have consequences.

Godly Motives Lead to Godly Actions

First Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

God wants us to live our lives with a godly attitude. He wants us to release our thoughts to Him regardless of what they are. If they are ungodly, He wants to help us get our motives, thoughts and intentions under His wing and protection. If our motives are already in line with His intentions, we are blessed as we move forward. Praise God!

When we share the gospel and Christ’s salvation to others with the right motive, God is pleased. Honoring our Lord and Savior by participating in the Great Commission is one, if not the most, godly actions one can undertake. If we give a large amount of money to the church with the sole purpose of giving out of our love for Christ and His church, our motives prove higher in the eyes of the Lord than someone who gives to impress the preacher or to influence the direction of the church.

Being in the presence of God allows us to trust our own motives more quickly and accurately. But, there will still be times when we question our motives. This is because we are humans. We are not God. We have the privilege of asking our heavenly Father for direction and clarification. When we pray in the name of Jesus, being led by the Holy Spirit, God will give us peace and directionin His time and in His way.

How to Analyze Our Motives

Many times, in our lives, we want to know if our motives are allied with what the Lord desires for us. We wonder because we don’t want our actions to stem from ill-conceived motives. Another way to say that is that we don’t want to make fools of ourselves before God and people. When we question our own motives through prayer and inquiring of the Lord, a special union between ourselves and our heavenly Father is created because we are searching for God’s thoughts. We crave the very presence of God, so He can lead us on the right track in our thoughts, prayers, and actions.

How do we know what our motives are and what we should do?

  • Ask God to show you if your motives are pure (or not).
  • Ask God to show you your real motive.
  • Ask God if your thoughts are from you or Him.
  • Ask God if it is time to stop praying about whatever is your concern.
  • Ask God for wisdom, character, sincerity and humility.
  • Ask God for you to have the strength to give up your motives, intents, and desires and replace them with His will for you.
  • Ask God to continually remind you that He knows what’s best for you because He sees the big picture of your life—NOT YOU.

Seek God’s Input

Seeking God’s input as to our motives is a fantastic place to start—but it is usually extremely difficult. We live in our dreams and desires; they are hard to replace.

Before anything, God wants us to put Him above all else. When we reach the place of total surrender to the Lord, we must move on in pleasing Him in our lives. We don’t know sometimes whether God is going to say YES, NO, or NOT NOW when we pray, but no matter what, know that He is working to perfect us, and He knows what is best.

We may feel that no one else can understand the extent of what we are undergoing. We may wonder if our thoughts are from our intellectual brain or from God. We may wonder if we are operating according to our fleshy desires. We may agonize over our motivational reasons, causes, purposes, intentions and even our spiritual aptitude to discern. Discovering our true intentions can be hard. We may be dealing with strongholds in our life, i.e. idolatry.

Even Strong Spiritually-Minded Believers Pray About Their Motives, because . . .

  • They want their time spent in the presence of God to be productive.
  • They don’t want to be praying about something if their motives are not in tune with God.
  • They can’t move on until they know if their motives are acceptable to God.
  • They want to grasp what God wants to say to them.
  • They want to submit to God’s plan for their lives.

Occasionally, a believer’s heart becomes so impressed with a passage of Scripture that he feels God is declaring His plan or words just to him. If that is your case, take that verse, meditate upon it, look at the context, talk to the Lord about whether it is really meant for you and this situation.

“Dear God” Letter

I write “Dear God” letters when I really have something I want to articulate to the Lord. I’ve been doing this since 6th grade. One deep-rooted and totally honest prayer stated,

Dear God,

Why am I praying this prayer over and over? What are my motives and what are Your motives? Lord, it sounds crazy to pray that this could come true, but I hope for it. I am waiting patiently. If it isn’t Your will, I ask You to take away the desire and correct my prayer. I am at wit’s end trying everything to know Your will. I don’t know if it is a sin, a glimpse into the future or a thought from Satan. Lord, I don’t understand my own motives. Correct me, Lord. I don’t understand. I need relief. Is it time for me to stop praying about this? Lord Jesus, my spirit is heavy. Search me, O Lord. I want to be in Your absolute will but how can I be until You answer this prayer?

I love you.


I share this letter with you because many times there comes a point where we need to just stop saying the general prayers that we so often pray and start praying in total honesty to God. Tell Him you don’t understand. Tell Him you don’t know why you are experiencing this conundrum. Tell Him you need His wisdom and discernment. Tell Him you need His power to know His motives. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Always remember—He knows the plans He has for us. Plans for welfare and not for calamity give us a future and a hope. (See Jeremiah 29:11)


Our motives matter!

The next time you question your motives, get honest with God. I mean totally honest with God! Talk to Him like no other. Be specific. Be bold. Inquire. Then commit to seek Him daily for direction and understanding; tell Him you don’t want to misinterpret your motives. He will show you how He wants you to proceed—or how not to proceed.

As with all requests we make to the Lord, our obedience to His already-established commands is imperative. When we follow God in obedience, He will answer our questions, concerns, and intentions. Our Lord does not want His people to proceed with an unsettled or perplexed mind, but with confidence and clarity of spirit.

It is hard to imagine what life would have been like if Absalom developed a godly camaraderie and alliance with King David.

But I daresay that if Absalom’s intentions were completely surrendered to God, which is always the preferred method, our World History books would be different.


Bible Verses:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:1-4)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:4-5)


Jesus, I love you. I want to know Your will for my life. Please search my heart. I want all my motives, intentions and attitudes to be shaped by Your hand. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me to Your plan and agenda for my life. Again, search my heart. Show me my sins, so I can repent. Teach me Your ways. Let me learn more about You every day. Let me adjust to Your timetable and accept each and every step along the way. You are my triune God. Lord, thank you for loving me so much. I really do love You. Amen.

God Bless.


Member of IWA-Inspirational Writers Alive!

Member of Biblegateway Bloggers #bgbg2

Edited by E. Johnson

All Bible verses use the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.


Please share, forward, retweet, and/or comment if you liked this article or find it might help someone you know. Thanks.

In addition, I would love for you to join either my blog or newsletter. Just go to GreenePastures.org and look on the upper right-hand side of the blog to join!

Books by Patti Greene: Available on Amazon