What Motivates Your Decision?

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We make decisions every day. Some are small and have minor impacts in the moment. Other decisions are big and have consequences that last for generations.

Big or small, decisions are first nurtured and birthed by the longings of our heart (Matt. 15:18). Our choices simply manifest our inner character and make known our hidden desires. Each choice opens a window into how we think and what we love.

Therefore, the best decisions are made when we carefully examine our motivation. Asking ourselves, “Why?” is essential for good decision making. “Why should we do this?” “Why should we want that?”

We should probably be skeptical about our first answer. We are highly adept at self-deception. We love to tell ourselves noble “hero-stories” about our motivations that are as fictional as Superman.

A friend introduced me to a better way of revealing motives. He calls it, “The irreducible why.” The idea is you keep asking yourself “Why?” until you drill down to the real reason behind the decision. Beware, it is often a painful experience. Here is how it worked with me.

I came to my friend with a grievance, and I told him what I was going to do. He asked me, “Why are you doing that?” I was ready with a saintly response and threw in a Bible verse to back it up! He continued to ask, “Why did you choose that approach? Why do you think that will work? … Why? … Why?” With each persistent “Why?” I was getting more aggravated. He was excavating beneath my saintly surface to reveal the ruins of my own selfish comfort that lay at the root of the decision. I was laid bare, but I was ready to make a better choice.

Before you make a decision ask, “Why?” That simple question will help you locate the true motivation behind the decision. Then you’ll need to ask, “What should be my motivation?” Here are three of the best!

Will my decision glorify God?

“Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Good decisions begin with a deep-seated desire to magnify God in our lives. This is done by following God’s word (Col. 3:17). Be careful. This is more than a box to be checked on the way to our own agenda.

God’s word does more than regulate our actions, it confronts our motives. Therefore, something can be Biblically right to do, but still be a bad choice if the motives are not right. Jesus spoke of those who worshiped God in all the right ways, but they were condemned because they did it for selfish motives (Matt. 6:1-14; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; James 4:3).

A good decision is one that reflects that God deserves our first and our finest (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 12:1-2). Yes, many times those decisions are personally demanding and exhausting, because priority is most often expressed through sacrifice (Luke 22:42; Luke 9:23)! Paul wrote, “[Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:15). The finest decisions in life are those that submit our comforts to His glory.

Will my decision deepen the spiritual commitment of others?

“That they might be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33). We do not live in a bubble. We must consider how our decisions affect the spiritual condition of people around us. People’s spiritual needs must come before our personal rights.

On one occasion Jesus and His apostles were exhausted. It was right for them to get some rest. So, they headed to a distant shore. However, when they arrived at their retreat they found it covered with people. Jesus could have called for a great wind to sweep the crowd away, and then sit on the couch and watch the game. Instead, “He was moved with compassion for them…and taught them many things” (Mark 6:34). How clearly our Lord placed the spiritual needs of others ahead of His own convenience!

Those who follow in the steps of Jesus gladly surrender their time, strength and resources for the spiritual well-being of others. Can we say with Paul, “I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10)? “I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad” (Phil. 2:17). “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15; Heb. 11:25).

The early believers were willing to give up food, they had the right to eat, for the spiritual well-being of others (1 Cor. 8-10; Rom. 14). They even went to the extreme discomfort of being circumcised so they might reach others with the gospel (Acts 16:3; see also 1 Cor. 9:19-23).

The fundamental decision of the gospel is that God, who had every right to remain distant and destroy us, sacrificially came to teach us and save us. The best decisions in life are those made for the spiritual well-being of others.

Will my decision display the priority Jesus has in my life?

“Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). It was okay for Mary to cook Jesus a meal. She probably did so many times. But on one occasion she chose to give up food, sit at the feet of Jesus, and just learn. Jesus commended her for making the best choice; the one that would receive an eternal benefit. Mary chose to do the thing that would help her grow spiritually.

When we live for God’s glory and the salvation of others, our spiritual growth is certain. But, we must constantly choose to see our circumstances as opportunities for growth, and our responsibilities as opportunities for service (James 1:2-4; Col. 3:23).

Making good decisions is a lot more than answering the question, “Do I have the right to do it?” It means answering the question, “Am I doing the right thing for the right reasons?” When evaluating those reasons please remember this principle:

“He who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption,
but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life”
(Gal. 6:8)

Root out every fleshly motive because it will ultimately corrupt an otherwise good decision.

Tim Jennings

“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)



How to Read This Article

You may notice several references to the Bible in the article above. The goal of this style of writing is to reason from the Biblical text to transform our thinking and behavior. This approach is based on the conviction that the Bible contains God’s word, and that His word is the greatest source of wisdom and truth.

So, when you read an article like this, take the time to read and reflect on the Biblical references. They are provided so our “faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5).

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Be A Humble Decision Maker

9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:9)

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12–13)

Be A Praying Decision Maker

9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:9–12)