Intentions vs. Motives

Almost everyone has good intentions, at least we like to think so. Yes, some may desire to harm others intentionally, but most don’t. Still, we do harm. Sometimes the harm behind good intentions is even worse than explicit evildoing.

While I might strike a man in the mouth since I hate him, it’s worse if I use my power to poison the mind, heart, and soul of another life. Often, those in power are blinded by their notion of good intentions. We commit many atrocities in the name of doing good. 

This danger applies not only to kings and presidents, although evil motives masked by good intentions are certainly entrenched in the highest offices. But it also happens on a personal, family, work, and pastoral level.

So I ask myself, what truly drives my efforts at anything? Do I really want what is good? Or do I only want what’s good for me, myself, and I? 

Some of the strongest motives are fear, greed, envy, wrath, and pride. For good measure, throw in lust, gluttony, laziness, and vanity. These powerful motors have driven humans to create vast empires and monumental lies to satisfy the beast inside.

The influence of these deadly sins drive us to live with the unthinkable. We justify it all behind a mask of good intentions that we don’t even know we wear.  

So even if I’m serving the poor and needy, if it’s all about me, I’m only sowing a bad seed. Even worse, I contaminate the vulnerable since any spirit of oppression, vanity, or pride is contagious and destructive.

My intention on the surface may be to help, but the ravenous beast inside only wants to devour others alive. How much I should fear this. May God help my wretched soul.

But what about those with genuinely good motives? What about them? What about those that are driven by purity, faith, sobriety, patience, and humility? How about kindness, gentleness, and joy? What about those that seek nothing but the good of others, even for those who take advantage of the goodness of others?

Here the distance between intentions and motives approaches zero. Here, the only desire is to love and serve God and neighbor as did the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. 

Do I only want to win and be on the “right” side? Or am I truly willing to humble myself before God to be a servant? In political circles, they know deep down they can only make an impact if they win, so winning is the motive. Someone must lose for the winners to be satisfied.

But the power of God works between and outside the lines. Even brutal naked evil cannot limit this power as the Holy Spirit has unlimited potential in our hearts, minds, and souls.

Our intellect and efforts are finite. But the grace and mercy of God tell us, “There is room for everyone at my heavenly banquet. Go. Invite them all to the feast.” Upon accepting this invitation, we trade our good intentions for heavenly motives.

Praise be to God. 

. . . . . . .

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

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