Sunday, November 1, 2009

In Search of a Motive

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.. (Genesis 3:1-6, NASB)

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Everything we do, everything we perceive, everything we see is based on a motive. Some motives are plain to see (I buy groceries so I have food to prepare of meals and sustain life). Some actions appear to hide something deeper, perhaps an ulterior motive that could not be achieved directly. Some motives appear just to be blatantly self-serving. But, rest assured, there are motives behind it all … with one notable exception.

God, in human terms, has no motive. Instead, He is the source of everything and all is designed to flow back and reflect His glory and grace. He is not seeking to satisfy some goal or need as we know goals and needs. He has no needs, but is completely self-sufficient within the perfection that is (and always has) existed within the relationship of the Trinity. The source of most of our problems is when we begin to question (or in other words “assign”) motives to God and His actions.

The great tempter Satan did this to Adam and Eve in the garden. He slithered into Eden, sidled up to Eve (with Adam likely standing right there, dumb as a Spring lamb) and began to question what would possibly motivate God to place so many ridiculous restrictions on what the couple could eat or do. In presenting his argument, Satan planted the seeds of doubt about the true heart of God. He portrayed the Almighty as scared and intrepid, fearing that His creations would unwind His mystery and become gods themselves.

And we all know the outcome. The couple bought the lie and soon found out what really happened to God’s heart … they broke it. But God, even a broken hearted God, still reached out across time and space and revealed the source of His infinite love. This wasn’t some reaction either. He knew all along what would happen and He planned all along to glorify Himself by sending Jesus. As John Eldridge would say, the epic God is writing started long before we can imagine. And God is the only constant in the story.

So how does this apply to us in the 21st century? We know all these stories. We’ve heard them since we could first see a flannel graph board. I won’t pretend to speak for you, but from my perspective, I do continue to fall back on the question “What else does God expect of me?” I’m still uncomfortable with the God, portrayed as the ridiculously generous landlord, will reward all equally regardless of our works. I struggle to grasp the idea that I can trust His heart completely to be free of ulterior motives. I beat myself up because of some repeated sin or habit or (even worse) continue to compare myself to others based on what I do or don’t do. I’m no different than Adam and Eve, tricked once again to questioning the goodness of God and His motive.

In his book Lion and Lamb, Brennan Manning quotes James Burtschaell, noting “(God) does not detect what is congenial, appealing, attractive, and respond to it with His favor. In fact, He does not respond at all. The Father of Jesus is a source. He acts; He does not react. He initiates love. He is love without motive.” I think that pretty much sums it up … He acts and my reaction needs to be in line with His glory through His mercy and grace displayed through Jesus. May I carry that thought with me as I walk the Crooked Path today.

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  1. How often do you struggle and search for God’s motive for doing this or that in and around you?
  2. Are you comfortable or uncomfortable waiting in His presence, seeking to understand what part He has for you in His epic reflecting His glory? What brings you either out of your comfort zone or into God’s?
  3. Are you waiting to find out what else God expects from you, anticipating that He has some ulterior motive He will spring on you when you least expect it? Are you willing to let go and trust His heart?

NASB - Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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