How To Find The Hidden Motives Within A Person

12006093_808015239318483_5681376735823132168_nI was exploring the Gospel of John during my daily study when John 7:18 leapt from the page at me. Quickly, I pinned it down with a highlighter, its relevance apparent to me personally and today. It’s easy to try to be the next ‘reality’ TV star or self-promote on Facebook in particular and the internet in general.

Memes and stories pop up like flies in such great numbers they’re hard to fact check. How can you test the motives of those posting? Closer to home, who are you presenting and why?

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” John 7:18 NIV

The context of the passage is the religious leaders questioning Jesus’ educational background. They were in awe of the depth of his teaching. Jesus explained where it came from, God the Father.

The Breakdown: Part One

Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory…

This verse stuck out to me because of the fine line I try to walk as a writer and teacher. It applies to all followers of Jesus, though, as a means to test themselves and others.

The first half is about those striving to gain fame or honor solely for themselves. We’ll be doing some self-examination first. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount to ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself’ (Matthew 7:3-5) so we have to make sure our hearts are right before we deal with others.

Ask Yourself…
  • Do I do things to gain honor and fame for myself?
  • What are my motives?
  • Are my motives self-serving?

Here’s the tricky part, if you answered, ‘to help other people,’ then it leads to this question:

  • What do I gain in helping others?

If it’s for their love and appreciation, it can lead to hero worship. That’s the treacherous path towards becoming an idol yourself.

This verse sears itself into my conscience. I spent years feeding my ego, priding myself in being ‘the smartest one’ in the room. I claimed I didn’t need respect, but I wanted it. Woe to the one that challenged me with a contrary opinion. It’s something I watch for now.

This blog’s tagline is “Seeking first the Kingdom of God.” Not mine, His kingdom. I have to be careful who I’m presenting to the world.

The Breakdown: Part Two

…he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth, there is nothing false about him.”

The person who works for the fame or honor of the person who sent him, to do as he directs, is a person of truth since it’s not about what he can gain. They can also be tested for ulterior motives, but first…

Ask Yourself…
  • Do I speak and work to make God famous?
  • Why was I sent?
  • How do I know it’s true?

To the second question, we are all under the mandate of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) to preserve, add flavor, and do good works for God.

You test the truth of God’s Will by seeing how it lines up with the two greatest commandments; loving God with all that you have and are, and loving others.

What it looks like is flavored by your personality. I’m a writer and do better behind the scenes as an introvert. You may be extroverted and flamboyant, but for both of us, it should be used to point to God, not us.

Testing Others

I wouldn’t have you to be naive. The world is treacherous and Jesus knows it better than any other. In Matthew 10:16, he cautions his disciples to be ‘as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.’ How can you protect yourself or others?

It’s all in the motives. Self-Protection expert Marc MacYoung has a series of six questions he uses toAugust 23 find the intent behind the information people give him.

  1. Why are they telling me this? (internal motivation)
  2. What do they want me to do about it? (desired external results)
  3. What aren’t they telling me?
  4. Is that omission from limited knowledge or intentional?
  5. How much spin is being used? (Watch for word choice and descriptors)
  6. Can it be confirmed?

Print this out, write the questions on a card, and by all means use them. Use them on me if you want, hold me accountable if I slip (Luke 17:1-4).


It’s amazing what depth is in one of Jesus Christ’s sentences. Breaking it down as simple as I can, anything done to point to yourself rather than God is dangerous ground. When it serves and points to God, then you’re on firm footing.

Use this and let me know how it works out for you, please.

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