Why Do We Do What We Do?


What motivates people to behave the way they do? Why do we sometimes avoid evil and at other times choose it?

What motivates people to behave the way they do? Why do we sometimes avoid evil and at other times choose it? Or from another perspective, why do we do the right thing on some occasions and fail to do it on others?

People are motivated to satisfy their needs for security, significance, and fulfillment, but they turn to the wrong places to get their needs met. I will present the option of looking to Christ rather than the world to meet our needs. Our task is to be more motivated by the things God declares to be important than by the things the world says are important.

Because believers have a new nature and are indwelled by the Spirit of God, they have more options than unbelievers. They can choose to walk by the Spirit and do things that are pleasing to God, whereas those who do not know Christ cannot please God, since even their good deeds are tainted by the fallen nature. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). “They turn, but not upward, they are like a deceitful bow” (Hosea 7:16). “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

I have distinguished seven motivators in Scripture, but it would be easy to argue that some should be combined or that others should be added. Nonetheless, here are the motivators that we will discuss in view of their implications for our lives:

  1. No other options. When we come to Christ, we are effectively admitting the inadequacy of every other approach to life. While this is a negative motivator, it can have real power in times of doubt and pain.
  2. Fear. This can be both negative (fear of consequences) and positive (fear of God).
  3. Love and gratitude. This is a frequently cited motive that is positive in nature.
  4. Rewards. Scripture talks much more about rewards as incentives for faithfulness and obedience than we might have supposed.
  5. Our identity in Christ. This should have profound implications for our behavior.
  6. Purpose and hope. It is important for us to cultivate a biblical purpose for living and a hope that is founded on the character of God.
  7. Longing for God. The vision of God has been a recurring theme in devotional literature, though it is not as common in the Christian literature of our own century.

These seven biblical realities can keep us in the process of walking with Christ in the context of life’s ambiguities and uncertainties. Some of these may be relevant at certain times and uncompelling at others. In some situations, we may be prompted by more than one of them, and in other situations we may act without being consciously aware of any of them. Our actions, even when related to areas of ministry, are often based on an alloy of temporal and biblical motivations.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth

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