I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation lately.
Good ol’ Webster defines Motivation as, the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
We all have our ways of motivating ourselves and others, even if we aren’t necessarily aware of the source or means by which we are generating that motivation.
We motivate ourselves daily through “self talk”, and others through verbal and non verbal communication. Although there are countless types of motivators (healthy and non healthy), I am discovering that all motivation seems to fall under one of two categories.
The Law or Grace
Let me attempt to break this down.
When the law came on the scene we found ourselves constantly falling short of a standard that seemed impossible. Never lie, never cheat, never steal. It is not only a perfect standard we’re always falling short of, but it is also a mirror–constantly reflecting back to us where we come up short.
It’s like having a big pimple on your face, and when you look in the mirror that pimple seems to just stare right back at you as an annoying and constant reminder of how you should have perfect skin and right now you definitely don’t.
The law represented and demanded perfection. There was nothing wrong with the law, but there was something innately wrong with our nature, and the law served to amplify that wrong every time we fell short of it’s hefty requirement.
Hebrews 12:18-21 paints a perfect picture of man’s relationship with the law.
“Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speak. The earsplitting words and soul-shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. When they heard the words—“If an animal touches the Mountain, it’s as good as dead”—they were afraid to move. Even Moses was terrified.”
Mount Sinai was where God gave Moses the law, the Ten Commandments. But did you catch the word expressed most in these verses?
When the law is the source of motivation it produces full.on.fear. And from fear comes every lower and base motivation.
Let’s prove that out.
When you’re afraid you are dishonest, why? Simple. Because you’re afraid to tell the truth. When you’re afraid you manipulate, coerce, cheat, become insecure, jealous, envious, and ultimately hurt others and yourself.
Don’t get me wrong the law is a powerful motivator. But it motivates through fear. And that is an inevitable path to a very unhappy and contentious life.
In my own life I have found myself dealing with others on the basis of the law (holding someone to that impossible standard), because I thought if I gave them grace for their wrong I would justify or excuse their mistake. The law does what it did to Christ–it drives the nails into the person, making sure they feel the weight and severity of your disappointment and hurt.
But Christ already took that hit for mankind, and we find that although grace does not excuse someone else’s wrong it does absolve them of the guilt and shame that is (by the law’s standards) rightly due them.
Shockingly, the very essence and prerequisite of grace is that it is given to the underserving. And because of this we begin to realize that GRACE is actually the most powerful of all motivators.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age..” Titus 2:11-12
Grace teaches us to say no to things that are not right for us. Not the law. How? Because grace embodies two revolutionary things:
- Grace demonstrates unconditional love.
- Grace IS Jesus Christ. (“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14)
Now, because grace has been given to me IN my wrong, I get to know a person–I get to know God. Before, I only got to know my guilt, shame, or disappointment in myself. But now because of grace my failure is an opportunity to know God in a deeper way.
Secondly, my failure makes me a candidate and recipient of God’s unconditional love. I receive love and acceptance, I don’t work back into God’s good graces, acceptance and love.
And what does that create?
And isn’t it the truth that it’s so much easier to trust and honor someone who you know loves you unconditionally? Therefore, this unconditional love and grace begins to create a capacity for Godly motivation.
I will speak the truth, encourage, love, work hard, and so much more because I am no longer being motivated by fear but rather love.
Of course we know that grace is not given as a license to do whatever we want, but rather if we truly understand the power of grace we would know that when it is genuinely received it doesn’t create rebellion, but rather abandon.
Abandon to give up what caused me to fail, and a desire to latch on to the very thing that graced me. Because of grace failure becomes a redemptive opportunity in my life, and inevitably in the lives of those around me.