Danger in judging someone’s motives

The Standard May 7, 2020

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2) “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) In general, most of us tend to be more charitable in judging our own intentions as opposed to those of others. We often think of our personal motivations as pure while being somewhat skeptical about what drives other people.

In interpersonal relationships one of the most dangerous thing we can do is to presume negative intentions on the part of a family member, friend or colleague. This also can be harmful if we do it with public personalities. We see this mistake highlighted repeatedly on the national news. If you only watched and read news during the terms of the last three U.S. Presidents, you would have seen them each accused of being motivated by an assortment of desires like one to ruin or embarrass our country or to let certain Americans suffer and even die. We might disagree with the methods a political official uses and might make arguments for wiser ways of doing things, but it is usually a mistake to assume we know that they have evil intentions.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic there have been people who, due to extenuating circumstances, actually needed items from a particular store or had to go to their “non-essential” place of work. Some outsiders looking in made critical comments without knowing the full story. Have you ever been in a situation where you knew things looked a certain negative way to casual observers although there was a lot more to the story and things were not as they appeared? In a church or community people might assume that a particular individual does very little to volunteer only because that person makes it a point to serve quietly and keep their good deeds under wraps. Most of us have witnessed an incident which looked like someone had done something bad, but it turned out that person had no involvement whatsoever.  Maybe what happened was a total coincidence although it seemed there was no way it could have been coincidental. Actually, coincidences happen all the time. The timing of certain events might lead us to false assumptions. When we are looking for something negative, we usually find it. On the other hand, it is freeing to give the benefit of the doubt and to stop worrying about mere appearances. The Apostle Paul reminds us about important truths in getting to the heart of any matter and avoiding concern about what people think.

“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”  (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)

“For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed– God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6)

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