Don’t Judge Another’s Motives

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. ~Philippians 1:15-18 (ESV)

In Philippians 1:12-14, we saw Paul’s response to difficult situations. Here we see his response to difficult people. These were people who did the right thing (proclaim Christ) but did so with the wrong motives (out of rivalry to do Paul harm).

Paul could have responded with anger or bitterness. He could have rebuked such people for their motives, but instead we see the response: “I rejoice because Christ is proclaimed.” This didn’t mean that Paul didn’t care about the motives of others, but he cared more about the exaltation of Jesus.

This is how the Bible teaches us to respond to other people’s motives: We judge the actions of fellow Christians, but not the motives behind their actions.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote about dealing with sin in the church—unrepentant sin among those professing to know Jesus. He tells them to not place themselves into close fellowship with those who continue in sin without repentance if they call themselves brothers or sisters in Christ. At the same time, we’re not to extend the same judgment to non-Christians, they are the mission field in need of Jesus, after all. So, Paul wrote: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

But in the chapter before that, Paul wrote about judging each other’s motives, especially in relation to gospel ministry: “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (4:5).

So, we are to judge each other’s actions—whether what we do is right or wrong; but we are not to judge each other’s motives—whether or not we think others do good things for the right or wrong reasons. No matter what we think a person’s motive might be, if Christ is proclaimed then we should rejoice. The God who knows the depths of the heart will sort out the motives in the end.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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