Finney: The Ultimate Intention of Our Choices

I’ve often heard people say—and ministers of the Gospel teach—that the motives for our actions can be mixed; that is to say, when we choose to do something, we might do so both for God and for us simultaneously. In other words, our actions are partly holy in intention and partly selfish. Charles Finney disagreed with this formulation. In his Systematic Theology, he explained why:

Finney's Systematic TheologyWhenever a moral being prefers or chooses his own gratification, or his own interest, in preference to a higher good, because it is his own, he chooses it as an end, for its own sake, and as an ultimate end, not designing it as a means of promoting any other and higher end, nor because it is a part of universal good.

Every sin, then, consists in an act of will. It consists in preferring self-gratification, or self-interest, to the authority of God, the glory of God, and the good of the universe. It is, therefore, and must be, a supreme choice, or intention.

Sin and holiness, then, both consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions, and cannot by any possibility, coexist. . . .

Now, whatever complexity there may have been in the considerations that led the way to this choice or intention, it is self-evident that the intention must be one, simple, and indivisible. . . .

Holiness, then, must always consist in singleness of eye or intention.

Examine MotivesI think we sometimes fool ourselves into believing we have done something “good enough” because at least “part” of our motive was for God’s glory, when, in fact, we can never have a truly mixed motive. As Finney said, we confuse the concept of mixed motive with all the considerations that ran through our mind before making our decision. But when that decision is made, it is either for God or for ourselves.

There’s nothing wrong with a regular examination of our motives. It is a requirement for the Christian life.