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Motive Matters

Motive Matters

Words of Faith 8-8-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Philippians 2

[3] Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. [4] Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.


Some have questioned whether a truly selfless lifestyle is a possibility at all. The reason is that even selfless activity causes us to feel good. Activity directed toward others has a certain quality of self-centeredness no matter how hard we try to make it otherwise. Paul sets the mark a little lower.

Paul never suggests that it is wrong to look after your own interest, but he does suggest that we look not ONLY to our own interest exclusively. We must think somewhat about self but be sure to think about others as well. Paul is terribly realistic. The real challenge is to do nothing motivated by selfish ambition. There will be some return no doubt, but selfish ambition must not be our motivation.

The truth is we would not be truly human and certainly not redeemed if we did not feel our hearts warmed when hunger is fed, thirst quenched or cold relieved! But we are called to act without ambition that is selfish. Do nothing that intends to lift self up. Do nothing that intends to draw attention to self. Those things may happen, but that must not be our goal.

The not so subtle warning here is that even the most benevolent of activities can quickly digress into nothing more than "vain conceit" if our intentions are not clearly refined. We can easily become self-focused.

Paul suggests we start with an attitude adjustment. In humility, he calls us to consider others better than ourselves. If ever there were a church built of such an attitude, what a peaceful giving place it would be! Imagine the gentle arguments that would go on in church meetings as people demand that the needs of others are most critical.

Groups would defer to the needs, requests, and desires of others as guided by prayer. Signatures would circulate urging that priorities be shifted toward those with the least power and influence. Brass plaques commemorating special gifts would be pried loose from the walls and pews. People would stop and carefully listen to the least educated, least powerful, and least influential, hoping to hear Kingdom truth from a simple heart surrendered to God.

Paul never actually says that others are more important. He just challenges us to consider others better than ourselves. The greatest leaders are usually quick to lift others, ready to defer attention, quick to count others as better. It is a quality of servanthood. It is a quality that comes when we have found our true significance and identity in Jesus alone. Tomorrow we will see how Jesus lived that out.


Lord, I surrender to You. Show me how to live in the direction of others. Teach me how to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than myself. Show me how to look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. By Your Holy Spirit, examine and purify my motives. Amen.


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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