by Doy Moyer
People often assume that others will act, react, and operate on the same basis that they do. If some are liars, they will assume the same of everyone else. If they operate “in the shadows,” they will assume the same of others. If they are the envious type, they will assume that others will also become envious and act accordingly. They are suspicious of everyone because they themselves lack integrity.
I believe this is the mentality that underlies that of the teachers who meant to do Paul harm. Here’s what Paul said in Philippians 1:15-17, “To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. These preach out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment.”
Notice that these teachers preach out of envy and rivalry. They have selfish ambitions and thought that their success in preaching would cause problems for Paul while he was imprisoned. How so? Likely by thinking that Paul would act the same way they do. Paul would become envious out of his own selfish ambition and thereby suffer at the success of others.
However, as is also common among those who have such bad motives, they misjudged Paul. Paul did not operate on the same basis they did. He was not envious and showed no such self ambition. Paul’s attitude was displayed through his humility, which included rejoicing that truth was being preached. These particular teachers are not said to be teaching errors. Their problem was their motives. “What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
One of the reasons we need to root out evil motives in ourselves is that we will invariably attribute the same evil motives to others (Titus 1:15). How we operate becomes, in our minds, how others also operate, and this does an injustice in our attitudes toward those we ought to be loving and serving. “Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:6-7).
Assume the best in others and perhaps that will also speak to pure motives in ourselves. If we have pure motives, we can start by assuming that others do as well. This does not mean everyone will have pure motives, but if we cannot start by giving the “benefit of the doubt,” then our own bitterness will get in the way of being able to develop healthy relationships and serve one another through love.