What’s the Motive?

Scripture: Judges 1-3

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn the story of Ehud
  • Students will learn to analyze people’s motives to determine if they are trustworthy and genuine.

Guiding Question:

  • How can we determine if someone’s actions are trustworthy by considering their motives?

Materials: list paper, pencils

Procedure: Review the role of Judges as leaders rather than military leaders who led Israel between the time of Joshua’s death and the reign of their first king, Saul. Focus on the story of Ehud, concentrating on the fact that Ehud was readily allowed in to see King Eglon despite the fact that he was a leader of the king’s enemies (Israel). God allowed Ehud to defeat King Eglon so that Israel would not be his slaves. (Deemphasize the killing for younger students.) It was not wise for King Eglon to allow himself to be left alone with his enemy’s leader even though Ehud said he had a secret message. He suffered the consequences. Likewise, we need to consider people’s motives when they want something from us.
Teach the meaning of the word “motives” and provide examples. Motives are reasons why people do certain things. There may be more than one motive for an action. For example, someone might be motivated to study for a test in order to make good grades so that they can get a good job one day. Another motivation might be so that their parents are proud of them and give them rewards for their grades. Explain that by understanding someone’s motives, we can typically discern whether they are trustworthy. Talk about how motives play a part in whether or not someone may have a reason to trick or harm us. Discuss that sometimes people try to do things that sounds good to us, but only so that they can selfishly take advantage of us. For example, a classmate might only pretend to be your friend so that they can cheat off of your good grades. Strangers might invite you to do something fun, but might try to kidnap you. (During the lesson be sure to educate students of such dangers, but do not go so far as to make them entirely distrusting of people.)
Play a scenarios game where students try to guess the motive. Divide the class into groups of 2-4 students. Then give each group a piece of list paper. Read a scenario to the students and have them write down possible motives that the person might have. Then let each group determine if they would trust the person (or if there is even enough information to tell if they are trustworthy or not. Explain that sometimes you might need to get to know someone better before you trust them. That is okay. You are not judging the person, you are simply waiting so that you can make a logical and well-informed decision.)

Scenario suggestions:
1. The girls in the popular crowd won’t usually even talk to you. It’s the first day of school though and the teacher just had a long discussion about being nice to everyone this year. The popular girls invite you to sit with them at lunch. They seem friendly and are even asking you about the new swimming pool your family just put in your back yard. They even want to start hanging out with you after school. What possible motives could they have for being friendly?
2. The teacher announced last week that you won the prize for the best science fair project. Your project was focused on eyesight and was inspired by your difficulty seeing the board in class. The teacher also announced that the next project would be a partner project. You notice that Jim has started saving a seat for you by him at the front of the class each day. He frequently tries to talk to you before and after class starts. What motives might he have for saving you a seat at the front beside him?
3. You are thrilled because you have been assigned to work on a history project with your friend, Sally. You ask Sally to come to your house after school on Friday to work on it, but she says that she can’t because she has a doctor’s appointment at 3pm right after school. While you are walking home from school, you see her eating ice cream with some friends at the local ice cream shop. What motives might she have had for lying about her doctor’s appointment?
4. You are playing at the park when an elderly man comes up and asks your name. He says that he has always wanted grandchildren but the only son he has lives in another country with his little girl. He loves children and was wondering if you would give him a tour of the park. He even talks about how he enjoys going down nature trails like the one nearby. Your mom is busy pushing your baby brother on the swing. The man even offers you some gum because he says he misses getting to treat his granddaughter. When you mention that your mom could come along, he shakes his head and says that he can tell she is busy taking care of your sister and that babies make him nervous. What motives could he have?
5. Lisa has always watched you ride home on your bike from school as her mom takes her home in their car. You get to church early on Sunday and sit next to Lisa. You soon learn that both you and Lisa have a common interest in sports. During the sermon, your preacher challenged everyone to find someone that they do not usually serve and to serve them. Recently your little sister, Gracie has started walking with you. Now Margaret asks you every day if you and your sister want a ride home. What motives might Lisa have?
6. Last month you were complaining about how you wish you were more fashionable and asked your friend Kim for advice. This week you noticed that Kim has started a small business selling handmade jewelry. She even made handmade business cards and her parents take her to sell her bracelets at the local craft fair. You never wear very much jewelry and Kim has started insisting that you would be much more stylish if you started accessorizing more. What motives could she have for urging you to wear more jewelry?
7. Your dad has been on bed rest for several weeks because of a leg injury. The yard has not been gardened or cut since his injury and your mom has been working extra hours to help pay for the medical bills. The weeds are spreading seeds. On Monday you talk to your neighbor Michael who tells you that he is having a family reunion at his house this weekend. He tells you about how picky his grandmother is about his house and yard looking perfect so his family is cleaning a lot lately and even installing a new deck. Then he offers to cut your yard and weed for your family since your dad is not feeling well. What motives might he have for helping?
8. You are walking to the park with your friend Alex. It is cool and breezy outside, but not freezing and he is wearing a hat. You are not. He says that his aunt gave him the grey hat and that you should wear it. You do not really like the hat and prefer not to wear it, but you do not want to offend him. He insists and even says that you can keep it. Why might he be trying to convince you to take his hat?

Note: Use your own discretion with this lesson. The size and overall trustworthiness of your community will determine the degree to which you teach students to be weary. Try to keep the lesson upbeat and also be sure to highlight good motives as well.

Additional Questions:

  • Even if we decide to not trust someone because they have bad motives, how can we still be respectful?
  • If we think that we are in real danger and could be harmed, what steps should we seek? (Finding a trusted adult)

Supplemental Activity: Older students can research a list of maxims/advise/proverbs/verses such as “Better safe than sorry,” Proverbs 5:12 “A worthless person, a wicked man goes around speaking dishonestly, winking his eyes, signaling with his feet, and gesturing with his fingers.” Proverbs 8:5 “Learn to be shrewd those of you who are inexperienced; develop common sense, you who are foolish.”
Which ones apply to determining motives? What do they mean?