Do you ever speak in front of people? I do sometimes. The question that always haunts me is, “What are my motives?” I refer to “motives” in the plural because we are complex creatures, and no person ever acts with one motive. Motives are layered, and we are not always even conscious of every layer.
That being said, we are sometimes aware of some of our motives because of our ability to introspect. Jesus cares about motives. German Protestant theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote in the early 1900s that a specific type of motive (related to the Lord, to glorify the Lord, etc.) is what distinguishes Christian ethics from other types of ethics. This played a key role in my PhD work on supererogaiton. After all, other ethical systems sometimes require a similar act as what Christian ethics requires, but the motive is different (definitely on display if you compare Kantian ethics with Christian ethics). James writes: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about giving, praying, and fasting. At the heart of each teaching was motive. For example, Jesus says: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others” (Matthew 6:5).
Concerning public speaking, I am convinced that one of the main motives one should have is this: to help others. One is to speak to help others. Will what I speak help? Or, am I merely performing? If one is not careful, one will be self-focused when speaking, caring only for the quality of the performance and not whether it helps.