It can be frustrating to have someone tell you your motives. “I know why you said that. You’re not fooling me!” “You did that to impress, but I know better.” “Oh sure, to everyone else it looks good, but I know the real reason.”

Now I grant that sometimes we are not fooling anyone. We are trying to ingratiate ourselves, impress, or curry favor. Our philanthropy is sometimes long on anthrōpos (human being, in this case, ourselves) and short on phileo (love of a friend).

But at other times we know ourselves better than others do. At least we think we do.

Motives are such slippery, sneaky things. They are very good at playing head games. Just when you are convinced you know yourself someone can come along, usually a parent, spouse, or child, and with one question bring you from one reality to another. It can be maddening.

In a letter dated March 28, 1961, C. S. Lewis seeks to encourage a woman who is moving in with family. As one might expect, not everything is going smoothly. Motives are being questioned. Lewis understands. He writes,

“While you were still debating whether the move was to your interests, He suddenly made it your duty. A pretty clear call, I take it. As to the ‘sincerity’ of D’s behavior, remember (let us look in our own hearts for the truth!) humans are v. seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are.”1

When Solomon was dedicating the Temple, he revealed a piece of insight I doubt we would have known otherwise. Solomon’s father, King David, had intended to build the temple but God did not allow it. But in spite of that refusal Solomon tells us,

“But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart’” (1 Kings 8:18).

Did you notice, “You did well that it was in your heart”? Think about it.

Realizing God knows my motives can be unsettling, as it should be. I know me. But at other times it’s encouraging to realize he knows my motives.

“And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.” – Revelation 2:23.

1. Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1249. Italics in original

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Thank you for visiting. This blog is the result of a lifetime of reading C. S. Lewis and a desire to sit down opposite him over a cup of tea seeking his advice. His responses are based on his letters and books.

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