You have to know that motives matter, in fact the issue of gray areas in many ways boils down to a matter of the motives. Alright, I’ll quit complicating your life and get on with the point.
Take the bike in the picture, it sits there until someone has a purpose for it. Now if you do decide to trust your life to that wonderful specimen of rubber and rusted metal, you’re gonna need a goal. Then you will need the motivation to ride the contraption to your goal. In fact, the outcome of your ride and the future of that bike depend almost entirely on your motives.
If you want to cross a busy intersection to get safely across and continue on to your destination, you will most likely do just that. Waiting until the proper time and being considerate of others in the path.
On the other hand, if you cross the street because you think you own it and have the right to cross, you will most likely do just that. Crossing as soon as it’s almost safe, causing cars to test their brakes, and swerving through the crosswalk just because you can and it annoys the pedestrians.
Both you and the people around you will suffer the consequences (good or bad) of the actions that follow your motives. In both scenarios you would be crossing the street at a crosswalk which most would consider neither right nor wrong; however, in one scenario you are motivated by a consideration for your long-term goal and in the other you are motivated by your short-sighted goal of proving your right to the crosswalk.
Let’s leave the bike analogy at that and you feel free to pick it apart or change it until it makes sense where you’re at.
People aren’t idiots, they can tell by your actions when your motives are pure and when they aren’t. If they completely miss the motives message, then they will for sure know by the fruits of your actions (more on that next week). That said, it is in your best interest to check your motives before you act. More confirmation on this pattern is found in Luke 6:45
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
Our understanding of how our motives shape our actions is directly responsible for how we will correctly respond to gray areas. If you are motivated by a strong desire to prove you are a “big girl” and you can “make your own choices” you will do things that you think only big girls can do (smoking, drinking, etc.) and you will make choices against wisdom in the effort to prove that you are superior to the wisdom of your authorities. This is stupidity, I hope you know that.
I will further expound for the sake of being painfully clear with a few more simple examples of motives, scenarios, actions, and outcomes.
I want guys to notice me
If I wear jeans that are just a little too tight and a little too low, the guys notice me
I compromise my previously held standard on modesty for the sake of attention.
I want everyone to know that I’m in control of my life
If my parents make an open statement or rule (Let’s say “don’t watch movies with extramarital sex in them), I can choose to openly disobey in front of certain people and word will spread that I make my own choices.
I surrender the protection my parents have offered by giving the power of my standards to be held by anyone who knows that I will lower my standards if my control or “independence” is challenged. (Eg. “Oh Courtney, your parents probably wouldn’t let you watch this movie… so we better watch a more tame one like Cinderella.” to which I reply “No way, I can handle it!” without ever giving a second thought to the consequences this movie will have on my life, mind, or purity. And that’s also hoping that my parents don’t find out and I have to face immediate consequences for my disobedience which is a sin in itself.)
I want to be seen as the perfect Christian
If I have sex, people will think I’m such a rotten sinner, but I don’t know what do do with all these hormones.
I’ll just look at a few pictures, nothing extreme… that seems to releive the pressure and the hormones. It’s like the experience without the consequences.
I’m trapped in an addiction that could potentially destroy my marriage, testimony, ministry, and life.
You get the picture here, our motives steer what we do. As far as I can tell from the Word, we’re not all supposed to go around in the monk robes or nun habbits, but you can see from the first scenario that the freedom we’ve been offered in Christ can quickly become a place of bondage to lust. With a little turning a blind eye and a sprinkle of justification we can make blatant sin look almost appealing. Do not be deceived, for sin leads to death. (1 Cor 15:56)
I challenge you to examine your motives as you ponder gray areas. The truth behind them can only come from the light of Christ and the Word shining on your life. So get to a quiet place and ask the Lord to search your heart. If you’re willing I recommend praying Psalm 26:2 “Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.” and see what the Lord shows you.