The Folly of Judging Motives

Wayne has been reading Senator Ted Kennedy's autobiography and it has taken him to some places he didn't expect. He shares with Brad his concern about the growing polarization of American life and how easily we dehumanize those we disagree with by casting aspersions on their motives and feeling justified in treating them however we want to. Paul warned us in I Corinthians 4 that we don't even fully understand our own motives, so why would we even think we can understand the motives of others. This leads to a discussion about how we dehumanize others, even in God's family, and then how we de-deify God by questioning his motives toward us, just as Eve did in the garden. We are called to be peacemakers, not to add to the division and judgment of a broken world.


  1. Hey guys, love the podcast. A thought occurred to me: you are spot on in your observations about judging the motives of other people. As I read this, another thought occurred to me: I hear (and take part in) a lot of deconstruct surrounding the “church,” especially as it is represented in our western culture. While your musings were directed at the polarization of Americans, particularly in the political realm, I wonder if those of us who are moving outside the box of organized religion might not be guilty of the same thing when it comes to judging our brothers and sisters who remain a part of what we’ve labeled the ‘institution.’ I have to admit that I, for one, am guilty of judging the motives of pastors and churches, particularly the ones who are well known and are easy targets.

    Perhaps I need a little (a lot) more grace and humility towards these brothers and sisters. Truth be told, though a lot of wounding has occurred in these structures, a lot of good has too. And I don’t know the motives of the hearts of ministers and pastors — even the ones who have hurt me. Perhaps this growing conviction is what has made it hard for me lately as I’ve tried to listen to the podcast. The negative comments that are peppered throughout many of the conversations and interviews distract me from the life-giving parts of the conversation. I suppose what this reveals about me is that I have more wounding to recover from than I realized. And more judgementalism to own than I wished I had to own. I’m much less mature than I’ve imagined myself to be. But I’m grateful to be loved as I am…

    Anyways, just reflecting on my heart’s response to the latest theme of the God Journey…

    More Grace. More Peace,

  2. Only 1/3rd of the way into the podcast this week…

    I am *so* hoping that this leads to discussing how often we waste time debating the “motives” of God and what He’s doing around us.

    “‘A’ is happening because God feels ‘B’ about what ‘C’ did.”

    Now back to listening…

  3. Kinda wish we could hop on Twitter or some-such WHILE you’re recording these.

    I had posted a thought to my Facebook/Twitter profile a while back that matched up with some of this:

    “Advice that starts ‘maybe if’ is not likely grounded in wisdom.”

    If your self-thoughts begin to question your own motives with “maybe if” I do this this way, it’ll make God happy; it’s not God leading your thinking.

  4. Love your comment, Doug! Your honesty about feelings and emotions you’re experiencing, are so appreciated! I know I’ve been guilty of pointing fingers… inspite of the hurts we’ve experienced within a particular institution, this sure doesn’t give me the right to point fingers or judge! Thanks for your comment!

  5. WOW! All I can say is -OUCH! I fall into this, not as badly as I used to, but I do. Thanks for the insight.

  6. So many good points on the podcast. I think that the older we get the harder it is to relate to others sometimes because of what Brad was saying about the past hurts that create the ‘bars in front of our face’ when we encounter someone. Maybe that’s why Jesus so often referred to children when talking about how we should act. Being as trusting as a child is not an easy thing to do after a lot of years of hurt piled up on each other. John 13:35 has been in my thoughts a lot lately and how hard it truly is to love as Jesus loves. That requires so much vulnerability and runs against the grain of everything we naturally would do just out of self-preservation. Brad talked about the overwhelming horrible conditions of people he saw in Calcutta but still there was a sense of joy. Finding joy is what carries us through. The thought came to me of C.S. Lewis’ book and his experience as he wrote, Surprised by Joy. The joy is in finding that we are loved by our Father in Heaven. When we forget that, we lose the sense of the joy. Joy grows from appreciation. Maybe if we started to focus more on what we appreciate about someone, then the tendency to judge their motives would slack off. We can’t find joy in God without appreciating him. Why would it be any different for one another?

  7. Thank you Brad for sharing about your mom. She sounds AMAZING and wonderful. The point I got when listening to you talk about her experience, “that she wasn’t railing against God for this ….” and I thought even if she did, the miracle is that even when we “feel” far and in the dark place, and we don’t know that we are loved, doesn’t change the truth. And there really is nothing one human being can do for another to change their experience or their thinking or anything, we’re not that powerful. When this is happening to others it sends me to an amazing place of intercession. And I get to value all journey’s all people no matter what their beliefs or emotions. That’s freedom.

  8. I think when it comes to politics and religion there is a lot of fear taking place. Politics and Religion are the most sacred to the individual and, if you ask every human being, they want freedom with both. So when someone comes along that appears to threaten that freedom, we are up in arms and ready to fight. I know I react that way when I hear Obama speak or some pastor or televangelist I don’t like. The issue is that we so intensely and fiercely want to guard our freedoms. Which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But we can’t brand EVERYONE as counter freedom just because of the suit they wear or the label they carry.
    MY good friend Darin Hufford (author of the Misunderstood God) compares us to vicious hamsters. We will bear our teeth and hiss at whatever appears to threaten to take our freedoms.

  9. Great podcast guys. I sure am glad you clarified Triptik, as I was desperately trying to figure out how what you were talking about related to triptychs (

    Anyway, I have a question: I am interested to hear what you think about whether our polarization and proclivity to resort to “straw man” arguments rather than really engaging with the opposing side of the argument is perhaps accelerated by the fact that schools and churches promulgate “truth” in a top-down manner, and very few of us have any real experience or education in dialectics?

    After all, one reason the God Journey is different to most Christian podcasts is that every week you engage in a dialog with each other and (in a limited form) with listeners.

    So I am wondering whether one of the major obstacles to really engaging one another in a dialog of ideas is that very few of us have any real training, experience or role models to help us grow in that area.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this and practical steps we can take to address this in future podcasts.

  10. I so appreciated this podcast for its open, honest, and very real look at a subject that is so prevalent in our society. Recently I have been hit square in the face with the ugliness of the sort of judgement you discuss here. I have been both the victim and the facilitator of this sort of behavior in the past, thankfully God has been walking me into a place of greater freedom in this area of my life. He has restored relationships in my life that were the victims of character judgement and anger. I am so grateful for the grace He gives to us all, both the grace to see what lies our own hearts have harbored and the grace to be able to forgive others who have wrongly judged our hearts. If only we could learn to be “real” with one another and stop playing these games I think that the body of Christ could become much more unified and a whole lot less wounded.

  11. Thank you Thank you Thank you
    I’m a minister and have been preaching this stuff for several years now, I thought I was going nuts, like standing in a crowd yelling at the top of my lungs but drowned out by other voices. God is doing and has always been doing great things with us and those around us, even in our finite human form and if we could get in our minds how much God loves us and how much He wants this honest human fellowship as part of His worship from us.
    Problem I’m having now is I going through your archives when I should be sermonizing but then I notices you have a pod cast about those thoughts too.

  12. Hi Wayne and Brad

    As I hear you guys speak, I thank God for the priviledge to sit with guys like you every week and just tap into how you worked your way through scriptural knowledge and lived through some personal experiences to have gained a broader understanding of the knowledge of what is true. I almost said “how you arrived at .. ” but I guess we only arrive at a full knowledge in the “then” that Paul speaks about in 1 Cor 13:12 when he says that” For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ” Any way thanks for sharing the part that you do know with us all in such humility and genuineness.

    I’m working my way through an audio version of Dallas Willard’s book: Knowing Christ today – why we can trust spiritual knowledge. I’m intrigued by his train of thoughts on tolerance and how it relates to your discussion. Your statements on “de-humanising people and de-god -ing God” has triggered some thoughts in my mind about how we don’t always know God in the context of God, but really more in the context of our own needs and demands. Much of ‘preacher-taining’ today is also done more in the context of what people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. How often do we dismiss that which we need to hear in favour for what we want to hear.

    Dallas Willard on tolerance:

    ” Tolerance is not indifference, but a generous regard and even provision for those who differ from us on points we deeply care about. To support tolerance, which is not the same as lacking intolerance, more is required than just a lack of certainty concerning differences at issue … we must also care about people. Genuine tolerance itself must be based upon assured knowledge of what is real and what is right, and it always is. It is not a leap of faith. Tolerance is not the lack of something, but the expression of a positive vision of what is good and right – a vision taken to be solidly grounded in knowledge of how things really are. It is often considered knowledge that all human beings are equally loved by God, and the call to tolerance was based on that knowledge. It was this type of vision, regarded as knowledge, that lead to the abolition of slavery and legal segregation, for example. Such a vision, held as knowledge of how things really are, undergirds the possibility of a neighbour love that comes from the heart, and reaches across all human differences”. This kind of knowledge has inherent in it “political” power – by political he means the power to initiate and sustain social change”.

    (I think the reason your work in the public sector is so challenging sometimes, is at least in part because you are tinkering with people’s world views, and they often don’t realise or want to explore that some of the beliefs they hold or the the commitments they have made or the professions they herald are build on a world-view that is a cracked or incomplete foundation).

    If I hear what you are saying correctly, perhaps we in the body of Christ are so suspicious of one another because we don’t really know each other or care to know. Moreover, we profess to know the Father and His love, but do we really base that profession or belief on genuine knowledge of the Love that changes us? I want to argue that once you really know the love that changes you, you will not be able to question people’s motives, because you will know “not to concern yourself with things too great or too wonderful” for you (as David wrote in his beautiful Psalm 131). Only the Father has the intimate knowledge about the inner sanctum of the human heart required to be afforded the luxury of judging motives. Scripture clearly states that God’s ultimate judgement will be that of secret thoughts, motives and things concealed (Eccl 12:14; Matt 12:36; Acts 17:30,31; Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5) . So perhaps we should duly acknowledge (and repent of) our arrogance and determine to set our eyes on the things which He has licenced us to do, which is to commit ourselves to the proclamation of our reconciliation to the One who can help us all to search our own hearts (2 Cor 5:19-20). Once we venture this inward look and discover its frustrations as we come face to face with our own demandingness and lack of humility, we will all the more realise the need for His grace to be extended to us all equally, and we will be transformed into companions on this God-journey, rather than competitors.

    Yours in Christ
    Adele Jordaan
    South Africa

  13. Thanks Wayne and Brad for this. I listened to this twice today – it is just so relevant to what we have been going through – and still are. I felt Father gave me a special gift through you two.

    I am observing this increased polarization in our politics in this country – Australia – and I include church politics in that too.


  14. Thank you Great Pod cast.
    I have a number of Amish friends and I was sharing about the pod cast with one and he ask if there was a print copy. I told him no. Could you write something about judging motives so I could copy it to send to my friends? I know you are busy and I will understand if you say no.

  15. Boy, this is a topic that generally opens as a real can of worms! It is also easy just to go ‘round and ‘round in the discussion of judgments and motives. Thought I would stir the brew abit.

    The Bible sheds some light, but not necessarily making it as clear as we might like. The Greek word Krino, in various forms, is the word used that we translate “judge”, “judgment”, etc. In Lk. 6:37, we find the familiar passage of “Do not judge” (krino). The verse doesn’t stop there, but those 3 words often end our thoughts on the matter. However, a chapter later, Lk.7:43, Jesus compliments Simon by saying “you have judged rightly” (NRSV, other translations similar). Do we often hear that verse quoted? I don’t.

    But my Koine Bible (called simply “The Christian Bible”) says “You have decided (Krino) correctly”. At various times in their literal translation, they use 5 English words to translate the one Greek word: judge condemn, decide, sue, decision.

    Seems that judge and decide are closer together than we might usually think, or feel comfortable with. Maybe that takes some of the edge off the sharp meaning that we often give to the word “judge”, and on the other hand, can cause us to take more care with any “decision” processes; knowing its close biblical relationship to judgment or judging.

    Then Jesus throws in what could be seen as a wrench in the gears when he says in John 7:24 “You must not be judging according to external features, but must be judging with just judgments.”

    Muddying or clarifying?

    I believe that we have to make judgments in all of life. But we must get in touch with the motives that we are judging when they involve others. Can decisions reveal motives? I believe so sometimes. But then again, we don’t know for sure. That reveals the extreme importance of going to someone and asking “Why”, and never assuming. If they have good and right motives, they will be very thankful you asked!

    Thanks for the great ‘cast, and the thougts shared in the comments!

    Much love, Robert

  16. Thank you so much for this podcast! So much truth expressed in a genuine light of simplicity that trickles into all the crevices of our hearts and reveals itself in so many ways as we proceed to live our individual lives. How many times do we really need to search our own hearts….. how can we ever even presume to attach motives to the hearts of others….
    Again, you have given us some light onto our pathways….Thanks to both of you, and, of course, to Papa….

  17. Thank you so much Wayne and Brad, and thank you to all the others who added their remarks. I was discussing this subject with a Bible Study group a while back and admit I am horribly critical at times. On wondering why I was so unhappy when I had so much to be grateful for I saw that all the unkind things I say and think about life and people only show others what my inner parts are really like. I was revealing my lack of love and understanding and showing just how self-centred, self-righteous and selfish I am. I was even bluffing my motives were right. “Oh thank you for the cross and the resurrection and for allowing me to be in You and your Spirit abiding in me Lord my Heavenly Father. Papa I love you so much I lack the words to express myself.”.

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