This past winter, temperatures hit a record cold. In the midst of the arctic blast, I bundled up, went outside and hauled our trash bins down to the curb. It was negative two degrees (20 below with wind chill) at 11 PM, and they were predicting the temperature was going to continue drop through the night.
My husband was returning home from work around 2 AM and if I didn’t take the trash down at negative two degrees, he would have to in even colder temperatures. I smiled as I darted down the driveway imagining my husband being pleasantly surprised when he arrived home. The chores that involve trash are his responsibility, but since his love language is acts of service, I knew he would appreciate this act. I was filled with joy and delight as I braved the cold for my one, true love.
My motivation was pure and honorable.
Fast forward to yesterday, I returned home from a morning out while my husband stayed home with the children. I pulled my car into the garage, but decided not to rush inside. I walked to the end of the driveway to check the mail and bring the trash bins up from the curb. As I did these acts of service for my husband, my thoughts were on how I bet my husband was anxiously waiting for me to walk in the door. Often, after I’ve spent all day with the children, I want Jason to rush into the door after work. I grow annoyed if he walks to the mailbox or chooses to pick up sticks in the yard before entering the house. I wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine.
My motivation was borderline resentful.
The motivation behind my actions makes all the difference. Sometimes I do a kind act for my husband out of the goodness of my heart, while other times I do it because I want something in return. Some days I offer grace to my husband in abundance because I know I equally need grace; other times I offer it because I want my husband to feel indebted to me. At times, my feelings are genuinely hurt by my husband, but other times I want to control him, so I pretend to be upset.
I must confess and surrender my hidden agenda that otherwise would remain disguised behind seemingly innocent behaviors. Motivation is a significant portion of my integrity. The secret places of my heart are laid bare before the Lord, and if my motives are impure, He will know! Scripture is clear:
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. ~ Proverbs 16:2
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. ~ 1 Chronicles 29:17
My husband came home from a late night grocery run with more items than requested. Because he knows my love language is food, he purchased a package of Twizzlers as a surprise. Annoyed I said, “You can have them, I don’t eat this kind of Twizzlers.” I didn’t thank him because he should have known I would rather have had a chocolate bar or ice cream or anything other than Twizzlers. Criticizing my husband over his actions without acknowledging his pure motives is something I have excelled in over the years.
I have also mastered the art of false accusations. When my husband wants to watch a game on TV, I assume that he does so out of spite. I pout about him choosing athletics over quality time with his wife. When reality is, he simply wants to watch a sport he enjoys!
I do our marriage an injustice by focusing on my husband’s actions rather than the motivation behind them. I need God to implant His heart for my husband into mine so that I don’t just see his outward actions, but the heart behind them.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7
I focus my attention on actions causing me to forget the importance of evaluating motives. The intent behind the actions is what makes them honorable or manipulative.
How often do you consider motives?