By nature, everyone is motivated by one of two things.
No one is exempt or beyond influence. All humans have been pre-wired to desire and act according to two motives. They are like launching points from which all choices proceed. They are the defining factors for why we do what we do.
Natural human motivation results from the polar-primers of Life or Death.
“See I have set before you life and death…therefore choose” (Dt 30:19)
- Mathematically, we would label this as + or – .
- Behaviorally, we call it Reward or Fear based.
- Economically, we would identify it as Gain or Loss.
- Biblically, we are told everything falls under Blessings or Cursings.
- Maslow-istically (psychologically), we call it Self-actualization or Survival.
- Socialistically, it results from Benevolence or Selfishness.
- Developmentally, we categorize it as Mature or Immature.
- Governmentally, it is known as Civil or Barbaric.
- Biologically, we experience it as Pleasure or Pain.
- and the list could go on….
Generally speaking the more sustainable basis for doing what we do will result from choices made according to the positive motives rather than the negative end of the scale. However, not everyone can be moved for the same reasons. In contrast, the negative motives tend to produce quicker results and are more uniform in mobilizing the masses.
The point is that all human choice will result from either a primary motive of fear-of-punishment or because of an overpowering compulsion to gain something desirable. The fear can be real or imagined and the gain could be real or perceived; either way, the reason why we naturally do what we do is entirely dependent upon only those two factors.
There are a great deal of additional proofs that could be offered, but this post is not meant as some psychological dribble. These natural and foundational starting points are shared to set the stage for something super-natural.
In spite of their dominating influence, both ends of the poles are limited. Although the upside motivator can give the impression of a more mature, positive basis, it remains dependent upon the will of that imperfect person. Such motives cannot produce anything lasting in value because they depend on that which is temporary and ultimately terminal. It can’t last.
Only when a person begins to grasp the magnetic pull of an other-world motive can the temporal hope for the eternal.
Some may be familiar with this third, supernatural motive according to the moniker: Love. There is no motive that can generate anywhere near the exponential power as that of true godly love. Love is the most powerful motivating force in the universe.
In this, I am not speaking of the world’s definition of love, nor am I professing what many popular Christian ministers coo when referencing love.
Biblically defined love has far more to do with scriptural righteousness. In this sense, love has little to do with the preferences or perceptions of others; it is not defined by what others like or want, even though it strives for the benefit of others. It is primarily concerned with what God declares and commands as being right.
As the Scripture declares:
“Seek first the [other-worldly] kingdom of God and his righteousness” and everything else you are motivated toward will simply be given to you. (Mt 6:33)
This third foundation of a righteousness-from-God, upon which a person can make choices, can only be accessed through the Holy Spirit with faith in Jesus, but it requires a complete submission of all other foundations. That is the caveat.
To choose according to what God declares is righteous requires a complete surrender of our will to otherwise behave per our natural basis of fear or reward. It is not that they disappear, but rather that we freely submit their influence to the controlling purpose of selecting what is right rather than what is naturally desirable.
Fear. Some do what they do, under certain circumstances, because they are afraid of losing something desirable. Punishment.
Reward. Some do what they do, at times, because they really, really want something, and don’t know how they could live without it. Greed.
Righteousness. Some do what they do, most often, because they recognize that would please God. Biblical Love.
So upon what basis are you doing what you are doing?