Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 11: What’s Our Motivation?

Today’s passage: John 7:1–24

Focus verse: “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory.” (John 7:18)

This verse talks about receiving glory. Other translations use the word honor, and still others say praise. Glory, honor, and praise give us different angles to look at the same idea.

Although a human trait, seeking glory, craving honor, and wanting praise is a selfish pursuit.

With these motivations serving as the impetus for the things we do, we want to call attention to our actions or our words. The result is receiving the accolades of others. We gain personal glory.

Yet, how much of what we do under the guise of serving Jesus has this same selfish motive? When we do acts of kindness in public or lead others so that people will notice, we do so for our personal elevation.

To receive compliments for the work we do for God is a pleasant outcome.

Human praise affirms us. It elates. There’s nothing wrong with these side effects of what we do, but they should never become the motivation for our behavior. We should never serve God to receive public attention.

Later, in his biography of Jesus, John condemns the Pharisees for their wrong motivation. He writes that the religious elite place more value on human praise than godly approval (John 12:43).

Their misplaced priorities make me shudder. You may have a similar response.

Yet, before I condemn the Pharisees for placing public opinion above God’s affirmation, I must search myself for times when I’ve done the same thing. We should give this careful consideration.

Paul has a similar thought. In his letter to the Galatians, he asks, “Am I doing things for the approval of others or of God?” (see Galatians 1:10). We must remember this the next time we feel slighted over not receiving recognition for the work we do to advance the kingdom of God.

Did an esteemed leader thank someone else and ignore us, even though our contribution was as good or better? Was our name missing from the list of people who served in a church program or on an outreach project?

Even more painful is when someone else receives credit for our work. How do we respond?

These human motivations and reactions are easy to understand. They’re part of our sin nature.

But through Jesus, we can push them behind us and move beyond them. Under the power of Jesus, we focus on doing God’s will to advance his kingdom, regardless of the human accolades we may or may not receive.

What matters most is that Jesus affirms us, both in this life and in the next, with the best praise anyone could receive: “Well done. You are my good and faithful servant.”


  1. What steps can you take to avoid doing acts of kindness merely so others will notice?
  2. What is your true motivation for serving Jesus? 
  3. How can you do things for God’s approval?
  4. Will it be enough for Jesus to affirm you as his good and faithful servant?
  5. How can you better focus on doing God’s will to advance his kingdom?

Discover more about Jesus receiving glory in John 5:41–43 and John 8:50, 54. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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