On occasion I have played one of the most destructive games that can be played – Judging Motives. With God’s help I will no longer participate in the game but pursue the responsibility of judging between right and wrong deeds.
I think many people will recognize how to play the game. Here are the rules and some skills you must develop. You try to guess why people do something (sing in the choir, leave church during the invitation, sit in the front seats, refuse to participate, say amen, do or don’t do certain things). You assign different motives to his actions. You go beyond judging actions to assigningmotives to his actions.You must see into his heart and conscience and recognize that he is insincere bitter, greedy, proud, generous, loving, selfish, depressed, seeks applause, or any other motives you are skilled at recognizing. You eventually learn to criticize motives even before there are actions which you can judge righteously.
This is a dangerous and destructive game to play. You are involved in an action that God reserves for Himself (like convicting, illuminating, converting, and cleansing). When we play the “Judge Motives” game we are on our own. The Holy Spirit does not give us wisdom to judge motives. We will do the judging on our own and misjudge causing increased conflict. “All the ways of the Lord are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits” (Proverbs 16:2). We cannot even be sure of our own motives let alone those of another person.
When the Lord Jesus says to “judge not” he is including the judging of the motives of another man’s heart. When we judge the motives we have gone beyond righteous judging which is focused on the objective evidence provided by another person’s deeds or speech. In contrast to judging motives we are commanded to judge (form an opinion about) what is evil or good in the deeds of those we meet or in ourselves. In Luke 7:42,43 Jesus commended Simon for judging righteously the actions of a creditor.
Judging motives can have far reaching affect. An experience we had in our ministry will illustrate. For twenty-five years my wife and I held meetings in churches across the USA and Europe. Pastors had requested information about our travel expenses. Based on that request I sent some information about expenses in my preconference packet. My motive was to inform without any expectation or demand. I even stated that in the information. You may be interested to know what motivations (or condition of my heart) I was told that I had in providing that information: greedy of filthy lucre, deceptive (because I did not send enough information), defensive (because I sent too much information), cover up (because I did not send any information), manipulate (because they felt pressured), selfish, insecure, irresponsible, lack of trust or faith, and denying the sufficiency of God’s Grace. It would seem that if they were skilled at assigning motive that they would all assign the same motive. As a result of assigning wrong motivation to my information one individual cancelled the meetings I had scheduled and encouraged others to do the same. All this because he assigned a wrong motive to what was merely a statement of fact.
I am very much aware of my involvement in judging motives. I remember thinking that when a young person gives a limp handshake it is because of disrespect for elderly people until I was informed that one young person was handicapped and could not grip firmly. Often in judging motives we reveal more about our motives than we discover about the motives of the other person.
Knowing that Judging Motives is a sinful and destructive act and that judging our deeds and those of other people is commanded, I plan to actively (daily) and consciously (on purpose) avoid the first and practice the second.