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The Complexity of Human Motive The Complexity of Human Motive

The Complexity of Human Motive


How often do we stop and consider why we do the things we do? Did I make my husband’s favorite dinner out of pure love? Or was something more selfish at play? When my friend didn’t speak to me at church was it a simple oversight? Was she busy? Or have I done something to offend? Human motive is a complicated concept, and it is often difficult (or even impossible) to accurately decipher.

Today we come to one of the most confusing passages in Esther. For centuries, commentators have debated its interpretation—all centering on Esther’s motive. When she and the king were discussing the decisive victory of the Jewish people on Adar 13, the king asked Esther what else he could do for her. In response, Esther asked for one more day of fighting in Susa. The next day the Jews slaughtered 300 more men. The passage doesn’t say why Esther made such a brutal request, so all of the commentators’ ideas are conjecture. Some believe she was acting vindictively—ensuring that the followers of Haman got what was coming to them. Others say she was heady with power, making a show of her Queenly rule. Still others attribute her request to fear—overdoing the offensive because she was afraid of retaliation.

This sort of interpretation would be consistent with other Biblical characters. The Bible does not shy away from showing the fallen side of God’s chosen leaders. Think of Abraham’s lies about Sarah or David’s lust for Bathsheba. Others, however, give Esther the benefit of the doubt. They attribute her action to courage and wisdom. She would finish what she started for the good of God’s people. We can’t know her motive with certainty. I’m sure it was complicated. But we can reflect.

>> It can be helpful and healthy for us to check our own motives—Why we do the things we do. Consider some of your recent choices. Did you make them out of love—for God, for others? Or was something more selfish at play?

Pray with Us

Having read today’s Scripture passage, we acknowledge the complexity of life situations and of people’s motives. The Word of God doesn’t always offer simple solutions, but we can thank Him that one day all things will be revealed to us.

BY Kelli Worrall

Kelli Worrall is Professor of Communications and Chair of the Division of Music and Media Arts at Moody Bible Institute. She is the author of several books, including Pierced and Embraced: 7 Life-Changing Encounters with the Love of Christ. Kelli studied at Cedarville University (BA), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MRE), and Roosevelt University (MFA).  She enjoys speaking both individually and with Peter at events and retreats. They live in northwest Illinois with their two children.

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