Wrong Motivations

Wrong Motivations

My, oh my. Dad is tired of the fighting. My kids have entered a new dimension of their relationship. They used to be two easy-going brothers. Sure, there were petty squabbles here and there, but for the most part, they just played nicely. However, lately, things have changed. It now seems they can’t interact for more than a few minutes before one of them is either telling the other to stop doing something, or they are tattling to Amanda or me, hoping we will intervene and sort out their problems. Amanda and I believe we have discerned the issue; not long ago, Cooper was complicit with everything his older brother Theo asked of him. Games they played and even the colors they were coloring were prescribed and chosen by Theo. Then Cooper began asserting his boundaries, informing his brother of his personality, which comes with his likes and dislikes. Here is an example conversation:


Theo: Let’s play dinosaurs!

Cooper: I don’t want to play dinosaurs.

Theo: Okay, you be the stegosaurs.

Cooper: I don’t want to play dinosaurs. 

Theo: Fine, you be the triceratops. 

Cooper: No, I don’t want to play, I want to color… 

Theo: Play!

Cooper: No!!!! 


The argument ensues, and both are left frustrated, upset, and mad at the other. Partially for not listening and being forced to do things they don’t want to do. As a parent, I know this is normal, and the boys are just adjusting to relationships formed in preferences and their independence. I get it, but I become wearied with the continual fighting.  

This fighting reminds me of a passage within the book of James, and he writes to those early disciples. James informs his readers to act differently; he also advises them why they are prone to such common fight-inducing tendencies.  

James 4:1-4 

 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

I appreciate the plain language of James. The motivations of these early disciples, and ourselves, are wrapped up in wrong intentions and selfish desires. There are so many things built upon us just wanting to get our way. We invent reasons why it is better for everyone if we get what we want. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we internally make statements like, “If people would just listen to me there wouldn’t be any problems.” Or, “It would be a lot smoother if people just did what I want.” Those statements are grounded in a ‘me first’ selfish mentality. 

James’ language is strong, and he conjures up thoughts of the first brothers, Cain and Abel. In that narrative, Cain doesn’t begin with evil intentions. We should regard Cain’s attempt of providing a God-pleasing sacrifice as noble but flawed; however, instead of adjusting his thoughts and attitudes, he believes it is easier to do away with the competition. Therefore, James mentions, “You desire but do not have, so you kill.” When we start to see the people around us as competition and obstacles, we are heading down a dangerous path. A mentality of “my way or the highway” does not produce beneficial results for each other. Only one person gets to be “right,” and the other person is left dealing with the suppression of their individuality. 

**Keep in mind these issues listed in James as personal desires. There are issues that we must stand our ground on; however, there should never be a one-sided conversation. We should be willing to hear each other out and discuss things as though we are adults and not children ages 2-4**

James’ guidance is simple, look at your desires; are they desiring what God wants or things of the world? Are you merely looking out for your interests and elevation of status? If you don’t get your way, are you willing to sever relationships and hate your brother/sister? We must also realize that James advises his readers that behaving in this way not only tarnishes our relationship with each other, starting fights and quarrels but creates a rift between God and us. James calls this rift adultery; we are forsaking the things of God for our desire to get what we want. This is a very dangerous mindset to have, so I encourage you, don’t behave like little children who fight and argue because they don’t get their way. Desire a much more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13).


3 Responses to “Wrong Motivations”

  1. Dana says:

    So very true. Even as adults we still want things our way. (I tend to want to blame Starbucks and Burger King’s “have it your way slogan”, but it’s just sin).

    Btw. You need to know Cooper was amazing in the nursery during worship. He was playing with a toy that Tinley wanted. She let him have it and after a very reasonable time (even sooner than I expected) he pushed it toward her and said “your turn”. Theo will soon learn if he gives in to Cooper he will get more back. Good job!

  2. Linda Brake says:

    I agree Dana, even as adults we want our way. Our motivation is so often self centered. Thank you Tom for these timely lessons.

  3. Sue Palmer says:

    Yes, I have to admit it is easier if everyone would just do it like I said and it would work out great! BUT, you have a great point, that we like toddlers need to examine our motives, open our hearts and share ideas with each other because there is always more than one way to do something……except our salvation!

Leave a Reply