Guard Against Being Quick to Question Motives
How prone fallen human nature is to be quick to question the motives of others! A child brings a gift to his teacher in appreciation of her efforts, but his schoolmates may be quick to accuse him of doing it for selfish reasons, because he wants to become a favorite of the teacher. Petty? Childish? No doubt, but perhaps also a little selfishness, a little lack of love, is involved in this readiness to question his motives.
Yes, being quick to question the motives of others is unloving, and adults are sometimes as prone to do it as are children. In our everyday associations, however, we should want to be quick to attribute good motives to others, be kindly disposed toward them and ready to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So, when a husband wants to make his wife happy by surprising her with a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy, let her rejoice in that expression of love; let her not, without very good reason, begin to wonder what his motive was, as though he had been guilty of some indiscretion and now was trying to make amends! How unloving, how foolish! And yet there are wives who think and act in just that way—and husbands too, for that matter!
It will help us to guard against being quick to question the motives of others if we call to mind that in the Bible Satan the Devil is repeatedly shown as doing this. Thus when Jehovah God called Satan’s attention to righteous Job, Satan was quick to question Job’s motives for serving God. But in spite of all that Satan was able to do, he was proved wrong and Job true.—Job 1:7-22; 42:7-17; Rev. 12:10.
And among those reaching the very nadir, or lowest depths, in questioning the motives of others have been such men as atheist Marquis de Sade, whose philosophy was to attribute a base motive to every honorable human action. According to him—to give but one example—parents do not deserve respect and gratitude, for in producing offspring and then rearing them they have simply followed selfish instincts and motives. But the Creator, Jehovah God, in making man in his image and likeness, did make a creature capable of reaching heights of nobility, goodness and unselfishness.—Gen. 1:26, 27.
Being quick to question the motives of others is foolish, for it can rob one of much happiness. Especially with one’s Christian brothers, it is far better to find oneself erring on the side of being too generous, too trusting, than in being too critical, too suspicious. By being trusting instead of suspicious one will not needlessly cause misunderstandings, and one will not be tempted to say or do things one might afterward regret! In fact, it is good for both mind and body to be hopeful, to want to believe good things about others.
The Bible gives us an example of the folly of being quick to question the motives of another at 2 Samuel 10:1-19. King David of Israel once sent condolences to the king of Ammon because of the death of his father. However, that king was quick to question King David’s motives and stubbornly maintained his mistaken position, even to influencing a neighboring king to war with King David. In the end the king of Ammon brought only trouble upon himself and his people.—2 Sam. 12:26-31.
An aid against the tendency to be quick to question the motives of others is to recognize that it may be a form of rivalry, of competition. How so? In that, by being quick to question the motives of another, one is downgrading that one and thereby upgrading oneself by comparison. This might well be done unconsciously, for the human heart is deceitful.—Jer. 17:9, RS.
By being quick to question the motives of others, one presumes to do more than one actually can. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was able to judge the motives of others quickly, even as the Gospel records show. And so was the apostle Peter, because of being miraculously empowered by the holy spirit, as can be seen by his exposing the hypocritical liars Ananias and Sapphira. But God has not endowed any person on earth today with such power.—Matt. 22:17, 18; Acts 5:1-11.
In particular will empathy, or the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, as it were, help one to guard against being quick to question the motives of others. We usually give ourselves credit for having good motives for what we say and do, do we not? Then why not grant that others likewise have good motives for their words and actions? It really is a matter of doing to others as we would have them do to us. We would not want others to be quick to question our motives, would we?—Matt. 7:12.
Not that all questioning of motives is wrong. After all, in business dealings one must recognize the temptation that self-interest presents to exaggerate, to stretch the truth or to engage in sharp practices. “Let the buyer beware” is but using good sense in such cases. And there is also a time and a place for judging motives, after they have been revealed by overt actions; as when a wrongdoer is summoned before a judicial committee of a Christian congregation. But note that there is nothing quick or hasty about questioning motives in such a case.—1 Cor. 5:1-13; Jude 4-19.
However, aside from such exceptions, when considering the motives of our fellows at our places of employment, in our own family circle or within the Christian congregation, let us be generous, charitable, trusting, ready to give others the benefit of the doubt. Remember, it is God who ‘sees what the heart is.’ However, we can read our own heart, so, more than all else that is to be guarded, let us safeguard our own heart, making sure that our own motives are always pure.—1 Sam. 16:7; Prov. 4:23.