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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"What's My Motivation?"

Have you ever heard an actor ask that? "What's my motivation?" They're trying to figure out why their character acts a certain way. It's an acting technique. In life, unfortunately, it's a question we often don't ask.

We have a problem. We are humans. See? Okay, I'll explain.

Humans are born sinners (Psa 51:5; Eph 2:1-3; Rom 5:12; Psa 58:3; Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21). We are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). We have wicked, deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9). We are in bad shape from the start. So then people come along and tell us, "You need to be good." Our parents say, "Behave" and our teachers say, "Behave" and our government says, "Behave" and our pastors say, "Behave" and so we try. The problem, of course, is that this goes against our nature. The problem is not behavior; the problem is internal.

Well, we try to overcome this internal problem by providing motivation to be something else. We might point out that there are rewards if you behave and there are consequences if you don't. Motivation. But it is motivation that appeals to that inner problem ... where I am the center of the universe. And when that consequence or reward changes -- "I got a better offer from sin" -- then so does the behavior. The problem, you see, is an inner problem, and schemes and plans and techniques and methods don't address the actual problem.

Time Magazine has put out a story about the problem of ineffectual fitness trackers. The problem isn't that they don't track properly. That's a different problem. The problem is that they don't improve fitness. Turns out that persuading people to exercise is hard and giving them an expensive fitness tracker to accomplish it doesn't work. They've even found that paying people to do it doesn't work. In one study, 90% of those tested stopped using the fitness tracker. There were no differences in health outcomes. In another study they saw that those who wore a fitness tracker lost less weight than those who did not. The problem? Motivation. Fitness trackers are measurement devices, but they are not motivators. If you are motivated, they might be helpful to assist you in doing what you're motivated to do by providing feedback. They don't do anything to get you to want to do what's right.

We know this is true from other things. Showing graphic images of aborted babies should have changed things, but we're still aborting babies. Cigarette manufacturers are forced to put graphic warnings on their product about all the horrible things that happen to people who smoke, but people still smoke. No one is unclear about the dangers of drinking and driving, but people still drink and drive. There are laws and warnings everywhere about texting and driving, but ... well, you get the idea. In the same way, a "read through the Bible" plan won't motivate you to read through the Bible. Tools can be useful, but they don't use themselves. Only people who are already motivated use them. And humans, as sinners, are often not motivated.

The problem, then, is not tools. You're not overweight because you don't have a Fitbit and you're not healthy because you do. It isn't better education or better training. It isn't better methods like more friendly church services, better music, or a hip youth leader. The problem is a heart problem and the solution is not better tools. The solution is a changed heart. That's Someone else's job (Ezek 36:26).

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