“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2, NIV).
Have you ever had the Holy Spirit “weigh” a motive for something you have done? Have there been times He has revealed to you that something you thought was done “in love” was actually not done “in love”? I have. Perhaps the appearance of an act was loving, but the motive behind it was for less than an altruistic reason. Something that we do to help another person may appear to be inspired by pure love, but God looks on the heart. The Holy Spirit invites us to evaluate the motives behind our actions.
Guilt or shame can be the motive for an action. We may try to help someone for what we believe is a good reason, but what we do actually becomes an attempt to lessen a shame or assuage a guilt. God wishes what we do to come from a heart that has been cleansed of guilt and shame. We might also feel forced by circumstances or others to do something that appears wonderfully giving. However, our motive does not come from a heart that has been broken of selfishness. If we give expecting something in return, then we also give in selfishness. God wishes us to have a cleansed heart with pure motives. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,” Paul wrote, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV). If we give freely in love without analyzing any personal cost, our giving comes from a heart that understands the cost of what Christ gave. He laid down His life. His motive was pure and unrestrained love. Ours should be the same.
John Wesley believed that sin is discovered in the motive of the heart. I yearn for my heart to be pure in God's sight. Today I ask once more for the Holy Spirit to reveal the motives of my heart–if my actions are inspired by His love or by any guilt or selfishness. If the least bit of guilt or selfishness is involved, I ask Him to expose it and continually cleanse my heart. But if His love is my motive, I praise Him for cleansing the thoughts and attitudes of my heart! There are no chains that bind. I am free to cheerfully give myself away expecting nothing in return but His love to fill and sustain me.
“Continually create in me a pure heart, O God,” I pray, “and always renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).