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Right Action, Wrong Motives

Blog -> Bible

Then said David, you shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD has given us, who has preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goes down to the battle, so shall his part be that waits by the supplies: they shall part alike. (1 Samuel 30:23-24)


Ministry can play a bad trick on us, if we are not careful, right? It can bring us to the point where we become proud. I fall into this trap far too often. Doing something “for God”, and it all seems great and noble. Until one day in my quiet time, God asks me this simple question: “Why did you do what you did?” And too often I have to then confess my pride, my arrogance and my selfish motives. God started exposing my false motives around 18 months ago, and I’m still disgusted at how wrong some of my motives still are, despite knowing better in my head.

One of the dangers I fall into over and over again is to think of myself as better than others. And to think that I am entitle to certain things, because of what I do. David however knew much better. Let’s get the context right.

David fights the Amalekites. They had plundered the city of Ziklag. Their families have been taken captives, including David’s wives. So David inquires of God whether he should pursue the enemy. God says “Yes” and David goes with 400 men. However, 200 men were too exhausted, they couldn’t go. So David took wo thirds of his people, the other third stayed and watched their supplies. David and his people won the battle and recovered everything that was lost. So far, so good.

But now comes the heart test: They return to the people who were too exhausted to join the battle. Do you think they would rejoice together? Well, not really. The people who fought started to look down on the others: “Hey, we fought the battle, they were lazy. So everything we recovered from the enemy is really ours. So David, they don’t deserve anything. If it hadn’t been for us, they would have nothing. So let’s be fair: They get their families back, but nothing else. The spoil we divide only among ourselves, only among those who actually fought the battle. After all we are better warriors than those guys. Obvious, isn’t it? We deserve this!”

To be honest, my initial response would probably be: “Yeah, these people are right.” But not so in God’s kingdom. Actually, the Bible calls these people who made this suggestion “wicked men” (1 Sam. 30:22). And David’s response is so inspiring: “You know, they did their part too. They protected our belongings. Our part wasn’t more important than their part. We just had different roles. And you know who gave us the ability to do our part? It wasn’t your strength. It was God who enabled you. So just because God chose us to join the battle doesn’t mean we are more important than they. So let’s honor God, and rejoice together.” Stunning. What a leader, after God’s own heart.

You can read about the whole story in the book of 1 Samuel, Chapter 30.

I wish I could say that I was like David in this aspect. But honestly, I’m not. Outwardly I say the right things. But deep inside of me I catch myself too often having the same evil thoughts that David’s men had. “Hey, that person has been a Christian for so long, how come I’ve never seen him in a leadership role in the church?” That’s how I start. Until God changes my heart again: Who am I to judge? Who knows what that person does in his workplace for the glory of God, I just don’t know about it? Or maybe God called this person to faithfully intercede for others, and that’s what he is doing day after day?

Sometimes I think things like “Ah, being part of that ministry is so easy. That’s a ministry for beginners. But I’m over that level, I’m working on a much more mature level.” Again, who am I to say that? Who enabled me to do the job that I’m doing now? Was it anything I did? Or did God call me here? And is it really me doing my job day after day? Or is it God working in me?

Another thought I sometimes struggle with: “I deserve to be treated better, because of what I have done.” Yikes. Just writing this sentence makes me feel uncomfortable. But too often I catch myself with such thoughts. Isn’t that taking glory for ourselves instead of giving it back to God? And doesn’t God have some really strong words against such attitudes. Didn’t God call our best works “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)?

Paul in the New Testament mentioned this principle as well, for example in the book of 1 Corinthians.

Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. And of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

I fail in this aspect, over and over again. But I’m thankful that God doesn’t leave me the way I am. He has ways of ringing my bells, warning me, getting my attention, exposing my wrong motives over and over and over again. And I’m so thankful that He never says “too late”.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Thank you Jesus for purifying us and loving us, even when we cannot love ourselves.

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