Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 15 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “What Are Your Motives?”
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I do what I do, anyway?”
In today’s episode, I want to explore a few sometimes obvious, sometimes not-so-obvious underlying factors that drive our ideas, attitudes, decisions, relationships, and accomplishments.
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Why do we feel a sense of great accomplishment when we reach some goals, and feel disappointed or even deflated with others?
What might be a “guiding star” for living the kind of life God wants us to live? Could knowing that really make a difference in our level of satisfaction as Christians?
Let’s think about that for a few minutes.
There’s a fascinating story found in the Old Testament Book of Joshua. This incident takes place after the campaigns to conquer the Promised Land have been mostly completed. Previously, two-and-a-half tribes of the Israelites had chosen lands east of the Jordan River for their permanent settlements. But, before they could settle down to the business of daily life, Joshua required the men of those tribes to accompany Israel’s armies crossing the Jordan so they could help secure the land for the rest of the nation. Joshua promised them that when the task was finished, they could then return to their families east of the river.
When their work was done, the men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh headed home. However, before they crossed the Jordan they stopped to build a large altar—a copy of the altar to be built in Jerusalem.
When the rest of the Israelites heard about this new altar being built, they became incensed, assuming the eastern tribes were rebelling against the clear instructions of the Lord regarding the central location for national worship events. They basically said, “We’ve got to put a stop to this immediately!” and a delegation headed down to the Jordan to confront the “rebels”—which they assumed them to be.
When they got there, however, they discovered that things weren’t what they thought.
The leaders of the eastern tribes explained, “We didn’t build this altar in rebellion. Instead, we built it as a memorial so that future generations of our descendants and your descendants will know that we all belong together even though our territories are separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan River.”
That explanation satisfied the delegates, and they returned home to report that all was well.
Well, as I’m sure you are aware if you’ve read this story in the Bible, I’ve greatly abbreviated it and left out quite a few details. However, if you want you can read the story in its entirety in Joshua 22:1-34.
Even so, there are several motivational factors here for us to examine as we look into our own hearts.
The Need to Belong
Without getting too deep into the weeds of “pop-psychology,” the need for belonging lands right in the middle of Abraham Maslow’s famous “Hierarchy of Needs.” (If you want to know more about Maslow’s theory, click HERE, or on the graphic to the right.)
Everyone needs basic things like air, water, food, etc. We also need a sense of safety and security or we can’t really do much of anything else until those are in place.
Once those elements of our life are in place, however, we also need very much to “belong” to a group—family, club, social clique, political party, faith community, or any other grouping of fellow human beings you can imagine. A group may be as small as two or three individuals, or it may include millions. The size is not important. Regardless of the scope, the point is to be connected.
Most of us truly want to fit in, to belong, to be recognized and accepted as part of a group—large or small. That need may drive us to make tragic decisions, as Country singer Johnny Lee sang about many years ago in his signature song, “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places.”
The ancient Israelites instinctively knew this. They knew that their long-term existence as a nation in the new “Promised Land” could not survive if they didn’t stay together. Sadly, their subsequent history tells the tragic story of national disintegration when they lost those all-important connections.
The Truth Shall Make You Free
A friend of mine who was a student of Dr. Edward Heppenstall, quoted him as saying in class, “The mark of a mature mind is to withhold judgment until all the facts are in.”
Oh! How often we jump to conclusions before we know all the facts of a situation!
The heads of the Israelite tribes west of the Jordan, together with their religious leaders, assumed the worst when they heard about those “rebel” tribes east of Jordan building a “forbidden” altar. They were immediately ready to lead the armies of Israel into battle against their brothers whom they assumed to be in violation of the clear instruction from Yahweh. They were driven by the ideal of preserving the integrity of the nation’s loyalty to God, regardless of the cost in bloodshed, national distress, or wasted lives.
As Christian believers in our “here and now,” it is often too easy for us to base our thinking, decisions, and actions on unverified assumptions, or on emotions of anger, excitement, or misplaced loyalties. If we are to live the “abundant life” of witnessing for God as his “ambassadors,” it is vitally important that we make choices intelligently and with as much information we can gather. Otherwise, we run a serious risk of misrepresenting him, perhaps presenting a less-than-attractive picture of our God—the God of agápe love, forgiveness, and amazing grace.
Fortunately, in this story from ancient Israel, someone had the wisdom to suggest, “Perhaps we should go ask those tribes why they are building that altar down by the Jordan.” Certainly by the grace of God, they decided to send the delegation first, and the result was restored confidence in the loyalty of those eastern Israelites.
Who, or what, holds your greatest loyalty?
In the story of those ancient Israelites, both sides of the impending conflict were fully loyal to the new nation of Israel. While one side did question the loyalty of the other side for a time, nevertheless the apparent problem of the moment was solved by wisdom and understanding.
Obviously, it may not be possible to resolve all potential conflicts so nicely, but as a general principle, “a gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1 NLT). If “warring” parties basically agree on common values, usually it’s possible to work out perceived differences, and move forward in restored harmony.
A major consideration about loyalty for Christians is balancing our supreme loyalty to God and His purposes in the world with the many allurements the world offers us.
We might be motivated by the lure of fame and fortune, fun times, lust, political power, “righteous” indignation, failing health, looming deadlines, or a host of other demands. We can think we have total confidence that we’re doing whatever for all the right reasons, when in fact we may have once again fallen into the trap of choosing self-loyalty, or group loyalty, or worldly-goal loyalty over our calling of complete, primary loyalty to the God of Heaven and the principles of His Kingdom.
It really all boils down to our personal values. What is most important to us mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually?
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to value the taste of forbidden fruit over loyalty to their Creator. In complete contrast, Jesus—in the Wilderness of Judea, and in the Garden of Gethsemane—chose loyalty to the Father’s will to accomplish the divine purpose of redeeming Adam’s race. Jesus was victorious where Adam failed. Jesus chose self-sacrifice where Adam had chosen self-indulgence. Jesus chose suffering, pain, and loss as the price of man’s salvation, where Adam had chosen an empty promise from the arch-deceiver in the hopes of gaining access to the power of secret knowledge.
So we must ask ourselves this question: What, or whom, do we value most? An honest, no-holds-barred inventory of our inmost soul must be done. When we do that we discover that indeed, every one of us is included in the statement “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
If that were the end of the story, we could only despair. All roads lead to the Babylon of humanistic achievement, but ultimately end in destruction, decay, and death. The devil’s promises are empty wind.
But, God does not leave us hopeless! Jesus was motivated out of agápe love to choose the way of the cross to accomplish our salvation. Agápe love is revealed as the greatest motivational force in the entire Universe. Agápe love begets agápe love, and as we choose God’s love it is reproduced in our own soul, motivating us to greater loyalty, larger service, and better living—all for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about Spiritual Fruitfulness — looking at Galatians 5:22-23.
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