The Art of Neighboring: Motives Matter

BIG IDEA: Most people living in Seattle in 2017 have overdeveloped “suspicion muscles” because they have been thoroughly overstimulated by news outlets, advertisers, Hollywood, and the previous generation. We are “wary” of everyone’s motives. Our greatest fear is being duped, deceived, tricked, hoodwinked, hoaxed, swindled, double-crossed; conned, diddled, shafted, rooked, suckered, snookered or cat-fished. So we are, by nature, hyper-vigilant to not have the wool pulled over our eyes. Because of this, if we are to neighbor well, we must pay close attention to our own motives, learning to distinguish between ultimate and ulterior, so that we can love our neighbors well, expecting nothing as result. If we don’t, our lesser motivations will be sniffed out and our good intentions shut down and that would be a shame.

SERIES: The Art of Neighboring: What would it look like to love our actual neighbors? 

SCRIPTURE: Mark 13:28-34

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, cis much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.


  • Overstimulated and afraid: We know more than we did before. We have instant dissemination of the craziest and the worst stories out there, triggering fear in our minds. We are hyper-sensitized to what we presume to be danger. You might even say that our bodies are predispositioned to fear, in part due to this over-stimulation. Our fear muscles are strong and tired.
  • Overstimulated and suspicious: we are wary of everyone, and we expect the worst from people. We don’t answer the phone if we don’t know the number. We were taught not to open the door to strangers. Everyone is selling something. It’s impossible to go through a day without seeing at the very least 5,000 advertisements. Everyone and everything we encounter must be selling something until they prove otherwise. We’re the motive police.
  • The world will not change: People are going to continue to be cynical. And because of that, we must learn to be aware of our own motives and adjust them so that we can love our neighbors well.
  • What is your motivation for being suspicious? Where did you learn it?
  • Learn to give people the benefit of the doubt: It might feel dangerous or stupid and illogical, but you must choose to trust people. How else do you get anywhere in the world? Jesus trusted people. He even trusted Judas despite what he knew of him. Even the best people will break your trust, they have bad motives, they fail. Choose, out of love, to see people as God sees them, even when it hurts.
  • And they dared not ask him any more questions: The standard that Jesus was calling the people to, loving your neighbor as yourself, is an incredible and incredibly difficult command. So they dared not to ask any more questions because what else might he ask of them?
  • Two Greats: does one take precedence over the other, or do they work hand in hand?
    • The Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them.
    • The Great Commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself
  • Question Your Motives:
    • How often do I make decisions without even considering my motives?
    • Why am I not more in touch with where my motives lie?
  • Motives matter to God:
    • Proverbs 16
    • Jeremiah 17
  • Distinguish between types of motives: ulterior motives and ultimate motives:
    • Ulterior: something that is intentionally kept concealed. An ulterior motive is usually manipulative. It’s when we do or say one thing in the open, but intend something else in secret.
    • Ultimate: the furthest point of a journey, an ultimate point or a long destination. An ultimate motive is something like a career goal that motivates you to reach the goal.
    • Ulterior motives are not evil, but we don’t want to have a reputation for deceit. And unfortunately, much of the world thinks of Christians as deceptive. We have to be careful about this because we have perpetuated this idea by having ulterior motives in how we treat others. It may not be on purpose, but we do it. We can be inauthentic.
  • Good and bad motives for neighboring:
    • Ulterior: I want to neighbor well so that I can convert my neighbors to Christianity. It’s easy to fall into this because it’s part of the Great Commission. It’s not wrong to want this, but it’s incomplete.
    • Ultimate: We don’t want to neighbor well because we want to convert our neighbors, but rather because we are converted. We neighbor well out of the love God has shown for us and sharing that love with others. That may lead to neighbors becoming Christians, and that’s wonderful.
  • Affinity Based Relationships: People you’re friends with because you love the same things, you have the same affinities. These aren’t bad relationships, but there is some ulterior motive to being a part of those relationships: you get to feel comfortable around people who are like you.
    • Literal Neighboring isn’t Affinity Based: All of the people that surround you likely don’t have nearly as much in common with you. We need to foster proximity based relationships, and we do that by learning to love the way Jesus loves. He doesn’t love us because of how much we’re like him. We couldn’t be more different from him.
    • The new lab for new testament neighboring is not the church, it’s not the fellowship group it’s the neighborhood. These are the people you didn’t get to pick, they’re just there, and you’re called to love them.
  • Want your neighbors to come to know Jesus: It’s okay to want that. It’s vitally important to want and to care about that. But it shouldn’t be the primary motive for loving your neighbors. The art of neighboring isn’t an evangelism project; it’s a discipline. An ultimate motive is for our neighbors to come to know Jesus, but it’s not the ultimate motive for neighboring. If conversion is all we’re thinking about, we will look past them and lose sight of them as the people that they are. Neighbor well even if your neighbors never come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Loving your neighbor well is worth it in and of itself.
  • A good ultimate motive: I want to be a good neighbor because I want to create opportunities to connect my story to my neighbor’s story to God’s story.
  • Why aren’t people engaged in evangelism?
    • People don’t love Jesus.
    • People don’t care about other people.
    • People just don’t know any non-Christians.
    • Neighboring fixes most of those problems.


  • How do we convince our neighbors that we don’t have ulterior motives?
    • Check your motives.
    • Trust that love cannot be veiled forever: if you get into true relationship with your neighbors, then your love for Jesus will come out.
    • Learn to receive. If all you ever do with your neighbors, is give, then they will always expect that at some point you will ask for that back. So ask your neighbor for help. Receive help when it’s offered. That’s how real relationships happen.
  • Wrestle with your motives.
  • Neighbor well: it will change you.

Want to study this topic more?

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