The Dangers of Undisciplined MotivationsFr. Barnabas Powell
What’s the difference between Inspiration and Motivation? Well, Inspiration usually comes from the outside. I’m inspired by that act of charity, or that life well lived. Motivations, however, are usually internal; that set of desires and drives that either keep me on track or send my life down a dead end. My best friend used to say “No life is a total waste. It can always serve as a bad example!”
What motivates me reveals what kind of character I have. And when motives are undisciplined or unexamined, my life is being controlled by an inner drive that is not being formed by wisdom or faith. That’s a dangerous place to be!
So, what motivates you? Can you discern your motives as being helpful or unhelpful? Knowing your motivations is key to beginning the process of spiritual health because what motivates you reveals where you’re strong AND where you’re not!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 9:51-57, 10:22-24, 13:22:
At that time, when the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them as Elijah did?” But he turned and rebuked them, and he said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, he said to those who followed him, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
And he went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying towards Jerusalem.
This is such a powerful example of motivation. Here’s the setup: Jesus and His disciples are traveling to Jerusalem to worship. This will be the final trip for the Lord to Jerusalem and He will enter His last week of life before His glorious resurrection on this trip. Since they pass through the area where the Samaritans lived, he sends some of His disciples ahead to prepare the way. But the Samaritans were unwelcoming to these emissaries of the Lord. So, Jesus, as is His custom, went to another village. By the way, never be surprised when Jesus doesn’t stay where He’s not welcome!
But look at how some of the disciples reacted to rejection! James and John asked if the Lord wanted them to “call down fire from heaven” and destroy these people! Think of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus sees clearly what the two disciples don’t see. They are motivated by all the wrong motives. They are motivated by offense and vengeance and retribution, and that isn’t the Lord’s motivation at all! And these two disciples believe with all their hearts that they are asking for a good thing. Their motives, unexamined and undisciplined, expose their hearts! Notice Jesus calls their wrong motives the “spirit you are of.”
You see, your motives reveal what spirit is driving you. Are you motivated by love and mercy and salvation or is it greed, anger, revenge, and selfishness? Or, worse yet, “correctness” or “sentimental childishness.”
The truth is we often live our daily lives asleep to even trying to discern our motivations. We all too often are on “automatic pilot” and it’s only when we hit a challenge or make a mess of things that we stop long enough to ask “How did I get here?” Well, you got here because of your motivations and your priorities. Now’s the time to diagnose if those motivations, that spirit, of your actions are healthy or sick.
Today, your motives need to be disciplined and regularly examined in light of the Life of Jesus Christ. Usually, you’ll discover that there are some good motivations and some bad motivations in your heart or even a mixture of the two. By the Faith’s regular practice, you can make your own heart sensitive to discerning when your motives are leading you the wrong way. Being Orthodox on Purpose trains your soul to tell the difference!
P.S. Dear Lord, knowing myself is the hardest work I seem to ever do! And yet, if I remain hidden from myself, I never escape the failures of my choices. Being discerning enough to know what motivates me is at the heart of knowing You. So, help me, Lord, overcome the spiritual blindness and pride that has me always reacting instead of purposeful living, and forgive me when I still remain unaware of WHY I do what I do. Amen!