Motives of Action
1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

A king is made glorious by the obedience of his subjects. The parent is honoured by the child. Not by his running around the neighbourhood and saying, "Oh, what a great man my father is!" or, "What a beautiful woman my mother is!" but by studiously fulfilling their wishes. The teacher is honoured, not by what the pupil says, but by what he does. And we honour, or glorify, God by fulfilling His commands. The command of the Bible is, Amid all the thousand questions of life, ask yourself, What is the will of God? Ascertain what this is, and then settle your casuistry by aiming to fulfil it.

I. This leads to THE SUPREME QUESTIONS OF MOTIVES. Ordinarily a motive is supposed to be that which draws out of a man a line of conduct. But this is wrong. E.g., we say that gold is the motive which impels the miser. No; gold wakes up his avarice, but his will is working in him the desire of acquisition; and the motive power is the faculty, and not the thing which sets the faculty in motion. We say that a man works because he wants food; the truth is, that hunger is the thing which moves him towards the food. The question, therefore, becomes not, What end induces such a course of action? but, What faculties worked in such a course of action? and then you can ask, What was it that started those faculties? Let us look closer at this.

1. Right and wrong consist not in action but in the end or purpose. I take from a store an object of great value and carry it home. Another man takes it and carries it home. In both cases the action is precisely the same; but there is a special reason why that man is a thief and I am not. God has never put a faculty into the mind of a man which is not, in its own sphere and degree, right. If it be wrong, it is because it is acting out of the proper degree and out of its own sphere.

2. Many faculties act, in regard to the other faculties, with co-operation, or with a normal alternation. Many men say, "What was the motive by which I was guided?" And when they look into their minds there is a perfect jumble of motives, as they interpret them. A man says, "I am afraid I was not actuated by right motives; for I can discern the traces of other motives." The normal activity of the mind, in every case, is the result, not of a single faculty, but of all the faculties. The revolution of forces which go to make up the process of your thought in a single hour is a more stupendous work than any that was ever performed in a laboratory. If it were possible for a man to put sensitised paper in his hat and have everything that he thought or felt stamp itself thereon the journal of an hour thus recorded would take him two days to read. And yet men are troubled because there is not a singleness of motive which inspires their action!

3. The power of any action in men depends, not on the singleness, but on a combination of faculties. Instead of other faculties invalidating any course of conduct, or making it inferior, its value depends upon the other faculties which are concentrated in the production of it. The highest condition of the mind is that in which all the pipes in the multiform organ are uttering their appropriate sounds in the proper way.

4. Moral character is to be determined or primary and regnant motives and not simply by auxiliary ones. Thus a man says, "I have made up my mind to join the Church; but I do not know that I am sincere in wishing to do it." What is the matter? "Well, nothing would please my wife and my mother so much; and I have thought perhaps it was to please them that I was going to join it." Well, it is right that you should inquire whether these are the prime feelings; but, if you say, "I see that the time is going fast with me, and that if ever I am to change and get a hold on heaven I must do it soon, and now I am determined to obey my Master according to the best of my ability," there is a motive that should be sovereign; and if then, when that is settled, you think that everybody who loves you will be happy, this collateral motive will be a help to the other. Again, thoughts of personal interest are not wrong under such circumstances. Godliness is profitable for this world and for that which is to come; only see that your chief motive is to glorify God.


1. On the one side is the danger of indifference to all motives. Men ought to want to do the best things from the best motives, i.e., with their noblest faculties; but it is better to do a right thing from the poorest motive than not at all. If you make the condition of right living onerous the great mass will be discouraged. If you say to a man, "You have before you an ideal of Christian duty, and you must live up to that, you must act from the highest motives — for if those motives are adulterated by lower ones, they go for nothing"; you screw the man up till he is like a violin-string that goes squealing higher and higher until by and by it snaps and no longer has any power. There are thousands who began honestly to live a Christian life, but on whom were put tests, until they were screwed so high that the feeling in them snapped; and now they are in despair, and say, "There is no use of my trying any longer."

2. There is great feebleness, and a great want of generous momentum in the Christian life, which comes from the consciousness of one's self. Any course of self-examination is mischievous that puts a man all the time upon thinking of himself; under which a man is continually asking himself, "Am I going right now?" — saying, e.g., at ten o'clock, "Well, I have gone right all day so far"; but at twelve says, "Have I had the glory of God before me up to this time?" You are not to sit and brood over your possible conduct. You are to take your direction and be sure it is right, and then make a fire, and put on steam, and go ahead, and trust yourself on the way.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

WEB: Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Mental Prayer
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