Right Motive

James 4:1-3 

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Quick Response!

Parents: Do you remember when your own parents disciplined you? How did you respond to their rebuke? Are you trying to do better parenting than your parents?

Or, do you repeat the same rebuke that your own parents used to rebuke you?

Do you remember when your parents call you? Did you quickly respond or delay?

Compare yourself to your own children, who respond faster when parents call?

As parents yourself, how quick do your children respond when you call them to eat? How about if you ask for help, how do you motivate them to respond very quickly?

It depends upon the reason of a call. Children may quickly respond, if they find it favorable to them; if not, they may grumble. When lazy children complain or grumble, Ilokano parents may rebuke with the phrase, “No mangan alisto; no trabaho reklamo!”

Literally, “No” is Ilokano conjunction for “if or when,” which requires condition or stipulation. “Mangan” is Ilokano invitation to ‘eat, meal, dinner.” “Alisto” is “quick, fast, haste.” “Trabaho” is “work or labor.” And, “reklamo” is “complaint or grumble.”

When they say, “No mangan alisto; no trabaho reklamo,” in English, “If it’s meal or dinner, hasty; if it’s work, grumble!” “When it’s a call for dinner, they are quick to respond; when it’s a call for work or help, they grumble; they complain!”

How do you respond to a call for dinner? How about if you’re told to do chores?

Our response to particular activities is expression of desire. Instinctively, if we know what we want to do, we won’t ponder or consider much. We don’t spend much time deliberating on activities we gladly do, right? There is lesser pressure or none of it, when we are enthusiastic doing particular activities. It doesn’t require any motivation to exert efforts on ventures we enjoy doing regularly, especially, when they benefits us.

            Reflect on this: Is it favorable when we pray? Prayer is beneficial to us, yet we don’t instinctively pray. Why? Have you ever contemplated and tried to ponder upon your motivation whenever you pray? Did you ever ask yourself why you pray? Have you reflected upon your prayer items? Why does God not grant anything we ask him?

Motivation is a huge factor when God granted our prayer request. We should be mindful that praying is spiritual practice of faith. On spiritual matters and activities, even praying, we should ask Christ to help us not lie: “Lord Jesus, help me pray; how do I pray?”

If we come to God in prayer on our own initiative, we could be frustrated when our prayer request is not granted. Pertaining to our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ had declared in Matthew 6:9, 8For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

If God knows what we need, even before we ask him, why do we need to pray? We pray not because God needs to hear what we need; he doesn’t need to be informed. In prayer, we express our faith and trust in the Lord. Prayer is spiritual practice of faith.

As we pray, our hope and confidence, that the Lord is gracious, may strengthen.

Are you familiar how (exactly) God responds to your prayers? We should seek guidance from our Lord Jesus Christ; with godly wisdom, we pray for items that God may grant.

When Jesus Christ guides us, he advises; he counsels us what to do, say or think.

Worldly desires are not automatically pleasant to God. Instinctively, we desire worldly matters, concepts or materials. Naturally, our passion favors worldly concerns.

1.  Passion

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 

Precedent to this verse, the previous passage before this verse teaches purity of godly wisdom with peace, consideration, submission, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, honesty, and sincerity. With pure godly wisdom, we avoid dispute, strife and conflict. Pure godly wisdom is actively functional when Christ is in control over us; his Holy Spirit inspires us to promote peace instead of conflict, to be considerate, honest and sincere.

In comparison, when sinful self prevails in us, worldly concern prevails in us; we venture in anything favorable and match worldly passion. Selfish desire can be worldly.

We pray that Christ be active as Lord over our life. He guides and counsels us (our heart, mind, soul and strength); and, we disregard worldly attitudes and the like.

What are naturally attractive to the self? What do we desire instinctively? It says in Galatians 5:19-21: 19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The term “flesh” pertains to our physical body, the naturally worldly self.

Can you discern self-interest? We don’t need to deny our interest; it is common for anybody to favor anything beneficial to the self. Each one may strive for betterment, but the intensity of pushing oneself for excellence, it varies. Anybody could be more competitive than others. Competition is stimulated by several factors that include envy, jealousy, hatred, discord, dissension, factions, selfish interest, and the like.

Cain and Abel

This competitive attitude could have played a major part in the very first murder case among siblings in human history. Cain and Abel were the first siblings recorded in the history of mankind – Cain killed his brother. Why? What may have triggered him?

Theologians suggest that sinful nature of humanity had caused Cain’s cruelty. Well, how sin influenced Cain’s anger was not explicitly expounded in the narratives.

Together: Let’s read and try to explore what has been narrated in Genesis 4:3-5:  3In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

The phrase “some of the fruits of the soil” imply that Cain’s offering wasn’t best fruits. Did Cain pick those fruits from his own plants? It was not even mentioned.

In comparison, the phrase, “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” implies that Abel brought the best offering from his own flock, his own labor.

Anyway, we may interpret that Cain brought some fruits of the soil as offering that he considered as good. The Lord may have glanced at it, but not pleased with it.

Then Abel brought his best offering from his own flock, and the Lord favored it.

Cain was very angry that his offering didn’t please the Lord. Why? Did he think that if Abel didn’t offer anything, the Lord had no choice but to accept his offering?

Originally, Cain initiated the idea of offering to the Lord; yet God didn’t even give him any consolation prize. Cain was first son; he may have been favored by his parents. It’s not easy for him to accept that his younger brother Abel brought the best offering.

It was not told, if Cain and Abel agreed to bring their offering to the Lord though.

Reflect on this: What motivated Abel so that he brought his best offering to the Lord? Did Abel try to impress the Lord and get favor? It’s not clearly mentioned.

Surely, God doesn’t need offering to be God. He has power. If he needs anything, he can easily create it. God is eternally sufficient, but he appreciates our best offering. Offering is our practical expression of gratitude to God. Yes! God is gracious to us.

When Abel offered his best offering to the Lord, Cain may have interpreted it as competition, but the Lord was very pleased that Abel exerted his best. Similarly, others may not appreciate, if you can passionately do better than others; however, if the Lord is active in your life, you will certainly excel, no matter what others may think or say.

So, pray that God would let you excel in every activity you practically do. Pray that all you activities would serve as testimony of your faith in the Lord.

2.  Prayer

2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 

Desire, passion or self-interest could be great motivating factor to excel, attain or achieve something better favorable to us, especially, when inspired by the Lord. Of course, we want something special and wonderful for our benefits, right?

If selfishness motivates us, covetousness can ignite quarrel, dispute or argument. Disagreement among Christians is reality because of personal preference. Have you heard of church split because of different preferences in style, design, arrangement or color of curtain, building structure, carpet, signage, chair or VBS uniform?

If disputes in the church impedes or delays spiritual growth, that’s undesirable! But, if church doctrines and beliefs are the topics of argument and dispute, then it should not be taken for granted. Biblical doctrines should unite the church.

Abram and Lot Separate

Let’s learn from Abram and Lot. After they become wealthy in livestock, they separated. Why? Their servants quarreled about pasture land. Abram suggested that it’s better that they split. Lot chose the pastureland next to the prosperous city of Sodom.

In comparison, Abram remained in the land of Canaan. Why? It says in Genesis 13:14-17, 14The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

Notice: Lot chose the pastureland next to the prosperous city of Sodom. Why? Possibly, he anticipated greater business opportunity for his livestock favorable to him.

It says in Genesis 13:10, 10Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Observe: The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was mentioned even before it happened. It’s a lesson to warn believers and not totally depend upon human instinct.

Lot became prosperous when he was still in the household of Abram. But when he followed his human instinct, he lost everything he accumulated, including his wife.

Lesson : Actually, Abram suggested that Lot chose first where he wanted to go. It implies that instinct cannot pressure Abram. The Lord promised the Land of Canaan as inheritance for his descendants. Very clearly, Abram heard God’s promise; so, he waited for circumstances to be unfolded. He ignored self-interest and practiced his faith in God.

How do we practice faith when we have desires for greater opportunity like Lot?

Pray that God will give you stronger faith, godly wisdom and understanding. Why? So that, you may firmly make decisions that will fit within the will of the Lord for you!

When we grow stronger in faith, our confidence grows stronger that, whatever we do and every step we make would be beneficial to us. Pray for increase of faith .

Practically, if we sense peace from God, it assures us that he is pleased with our activities and lifestyle. Well, our natural tendency is to seek pleasure, right? We want to enjoy life. Enjoyment of life or pleasure in this world is partial taste of eternal pleasure we will experience in heaven. So, is it biblically proper for us to pray for pleasure?

3.  Pleasure

3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

The term “pleasure” may imply satisfaction of physical sense or sensual pleasure. We pray for better life, better salary, better work places or more finances, why? We want to enjoy life. We want to taste a lifestyle of our favorite celebrities. The popular, the famous and the powerful figures appear to have enjoyable life experiences when they flaunt, when they parade, or when they showcase some luxurious way of living.

Our envious self want also to experience such luxury, leisure and pleasure. Our inner self longs for pleasure. There’s sensual pleasure or delight when we are passionate in what we do. Truly, we are delighted by pleasure; we want contentment, we desire passionately. Being so, we pray for better life. But, how can we have right motives?

The Lord grants anything we ask if it is beneficial to our spiritually maturity. But, if we pray just to satisfy our sensual desires and passions, he denies it.

When parents pray for better future for their children, it is very admirable, right? Yet, the Lord let children follow their passion that may oppose to their parents’ prayer?

Unanswered prayer of David

See: The Lord knows very well that King David was a man after God’s own heart. But when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, their child got sick. He fasted and prayed for seven days for the life of his child, but he was ignored. In 2 Samuel 12:19-23, 19David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” 20Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. 21His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” 22He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

It was very tough for King David that his child died; he did what he think best. He prayed, fasted, and wept but the Lord did not grant his prayer. Why? Did God want King David to know that he cannot always have what he desires?

Parents desire betterment for their children, but, children choose their personal preferences as opposed to the desire of their parents. Should parents continue to pray for their children? Yes, of course! Why? We hope that God would grant our prayers.

But if God does not grant our prayer wish for our children, God must have better purposes prepared for us and for our children. Can you readily believe that?

Additionally, prayer is our practice of faith in the Lord; we trust that he decides whichever is beneficial to us that will glorify his name eventually.

It says in Ephesians 4:1-3, 1Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.        

            Parents: We are called to minister to our own family, first and foremost. If peace and unity prevail in our own home, it will reflect and replicate in our church life as well.

Learn to rely upon the Lord in everything you do, desires, plans and activities.

Discover this: The glorious moment of living within the will of God is satisfying experience that translates to eternity far better than all worldly pleasure combined!

Pray for godly wisdom so that you may have godly motives in all your prayers.

><((‘> .. ><((‘> … ><(((“> tmec\2022 <“)))>< … <‘))>< .. <“))><

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.