Motivation towards Freedom

Proverbs 16:12 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

In the book Why We Do What We do, Edward L. Deci speaks about an experiment done with moneys. The moneys are given a puzzle to solve, but without any external rewards. He found that moneys kept doing that puzzle over and over again just because they enjoyed the process of solving that puzzle. The monkeys did not need some external reward, they were satisfied with just the process of solving the puzzle. They monkeys had “intrinsic motivation.”


Intrinsic motivations are one which are not dependent upon external rewards. Intrinsic motivation is about seeing something as being worthy in an off itself, without concern for external personal rewards. In the book Edward L. Deci says goes on to say that little children often display this kind of pure intrinsic motivation. They are motivated by curiosity, and the desire to learn about the world, so they are happy to touch and taste everything, exploring the world.

When Jesus says that to enter the kingdom of God, one has to be like little children. I suppose one could say children have an innocent in as much as they have ‘intrinsic motivations.’ If they become extrinsically motivated – as in wanting to do something to get cookies, then they would be tempted to take short cuts, lie, manipulate to get the desired external outcome. It appears that intrinsic motivation is a kingdom value that is amply evident among little children.

This brings up the question as adults can we ever reach the stage of having pure intrinsic motivations?

Deci says in the book that intrinsic motivation is seen in adults when they engage in leisure activities where it be fishing or reading or gardening – it is enjoying something for the sake of itself. Doing something for the sake of itself is the very of worship. West Minister’s confession says, “The Chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

How can we attain this state of being?

Proverbs 16:13 gives the answer, “commit to the Lord whatever you do.”

To commit whatever we do to the Lord is to commit our efforts to the glory of God and let God handle the outcome.

In stead of committing our efforts to God, if we are driven by a compulsion towards outcome orientation, then that is when we end up with impure motivations. In a spiritual context outcome orientation can mean many different things. For Christians in leadership, outcome orientation takes the form of obsessing over numbers – how many people came to Church this week? For Christians who are lay members, this outcome orientation can take the form of expecting to have some ‘feeling’ as an outcome of worship. To go into worship wanting an outcome that can be qualified merely in terms of feeling is an impure motivations.

As Christians, who follow Proverbs 16:13, we have to relentlessly commit every one of our actions to God. How do we commit every action to God?

I take 10 seconds to quickly pray about whatever I am doing, and commit it to God so that my actions, regardless of my personal outcome, brings glory to God. This sets my intentions aligned towards intrinsic motivation. When I pray to committing all I do to God, I find myself in a place of freedom in Christ.

An example… Even as i am writing this post, if I am outcome oriented then I may be concerned about a whole range of questions from – How many people will read my post? Will people like it? Will people be benefited from this? This is the way of slavery. If on the other hand, my motivations are not related to any personal eternal outcome, if my motivation is intrinsic – that is, my motivation is to write for the sake of glorifying God, then I am freed to express myself to glorify God without care for any external impact/outcome. This is the way of freedom.

Proverbs is a pointer to the way of wisdom God knows our motivations and will reward us for our motivation. Proverbs 16:1,2 tell us that way of wisdom is keep our motivations intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is achieved by taking 10 seconds out of hour to pray committing our effort to God’s glory, regardless of personal outcomes. Compulsion towards seeking external personal outcomes leads to slavery. Our intrinsic motivation to glorify God leads to freedom in Christ.

Author: Emmanuel R Paulpeter

I am a writer, spiritual director, life coach and a Church Planter who love all things pop culture, theology and spirituality.

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