What Does the Bible Say About Intentions?


Our intentions, or the motivations behind our actions, are central to living a godly life. As Christians, we are called to align our intentions with God’s will and walk in His ways. Though humans judge by outward appearances, the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible teaches about intentions. Key takeaways include:

  • God cares deeply about our heart motivations and judges righteously based on them
  • We should constantly examine our hearts and intentions through prayer and God’s Word
  • Sinful intentions like lust, greed and hatred defile us, while righteous ones please God
  • Intentions matter, but must be combined with right actions to please the Lord
  • Jesus condemned hypocrisy and valued inward integrity over outward appearances
  • We can only live righteously by the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts

Let’s dive in and see what God’s Word says about the importance of our heart motivations and how we can align our intentions with His purposes.

What Does the Bible Say About Intentions?

God Looks at the Heart

Throughout Scripture, we find a consistent theme – the Lord is very concerned about our inward motivations, not just our external actions. Here are some key verses:

1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Proverbs 16:2 (NKJV)

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits.

Proverbs 21:2 (NKJV)

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.

Jeremiah 17:10 (NKJV)

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

God sees beyond our actions into the real motives and desires that drive our behavior. He weighs our spirits and examines the inner workings of our hearts.

As the prophet Samuel is reminded when selecting Israel’s future king, God looks past superficial externals and judges the heart’s true character.

This means we cannot fake it before the Lord or justify wrong intentions. He will weigh our hearts rightly and judge us according to the inward reality, not just outward appearances.

Examining Our Hearts

Since God cares deeply about the state of our hearts, we should make it a priority to frequently examine our inner motivations and intentions through prayer and meditation on Scripture.

Here are some verses that instruct us to consciously inspect our hearts before the Lord:

Psalm 26:2 (NKJV)

Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

We see this modeled by David after his adultery with Bathsheba. He prays:

Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

The Lord wants us to ruthlessly investigate our hearts through prayer and meditation on Scripture. We should ask God to reveal any wrong intentions or idolatrous desires that may lurk beneath the surface. This self-examination is vital to living a righteous life.

Sinful Intentions

While God cares about all intentions, Scripture repeatedly warns against sinful motivations that lead to spiritual decay.

Here are some key verses:

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)

These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

This passage describes immoral intentions detested by God – pride, dishonesty, murderous rage, hearts scheming wickedness, eagerness for evil, false testimony and stirring up strife.

Proverbs 15:26 (NKJV)

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, But the words of the pure are pleasant.

Wicked thought patterns and intentions ultimately spring from impure hearts. That’s why God wants to purify our hearts, as described in the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Here are some other sinful intentions Scripture warns against:

Lust – indulging sexual desire in the heart:

Matthew 5:28 (NKJV)

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Greed – longing for more wealth and possessions:

Luke 12:15 (NKJV)

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Hypocrisy – pretending to be more righteous than one’s inner motivations:

Luke 12:1 (NKJV)

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Hatred/Unforgiveness – harboring animosity in the heart:

1 John 2:11 (NKJV)

But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

We must vigilantly guard our thought lives against such corrupting intentions through the Holy Spirit’s power.

Righteous Intentions

Not only does Scripture warn against sinful motivations, but it also describes intentions and heart attitudes that please the Lord:

Humility – Esteeming oneself lowly:

Proverbs 16:19 (NKJV)

Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

James 4:10 (NKJV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Integrity – Wholeness and sincerity of heart:

1 Chronicles 29:17 (NKJV)

I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.

Psalm 7:10 (NKJV)

My defense is of God, Who saves the upright in heart.

Proverbs 2:7 (NKJV)

He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.

Faithfulness – Loyal devotion to God from the heart:

Proverbs 3:3-4 (NKJV)

Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Generosity – Giving freely and wholeheartedly:

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NKJV)

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Love – Genuine care and goodwill from the heart:

Mark 12:30-31 (NKJV)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

1 Peter 1:22 (NKJV)

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.

These heart conditions please the Lord when motivated by the Holy Spirit. We should actively cultivate them, while rejecting sinful intentions.

Intentions and Actions

While intentions are paramount, Scripture also makes clear that righteous motivations must be accompanied by righteous actions to please God.

Consider Jesus’ stern rebuke of the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:25-28 (NKJV)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Despite upright external practices, the Pharisees’ hearts were filled with greed and sin. Jesus condemns their hypocrisy.

True righteousness requires both inner integrity of heart and outward actions that align with God’s will. As James teaches:

James 2:14-17 (NKJV)

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

While intentions matter greatly, we need to act on good motivations for them to matter before God. Passive well-wishing does not suffice.

Through the empowering Holy Spirit, we can translate inner motivations of love and faith into outward actions that fulfill God’s purposes.

Empowerment of the Holy Spirit

Thus far, we have explored how Scripture emphasizes proper heart motivations and the need to combine right intentions with actions. Yet we are incapable of either apart from the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.

As the prophet Jeremiah notes, the human heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). Only through Christ’s redemption can we receive new hearts that earnestly desire God’s will.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NKJV)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Even then, we rely constantly on the Spirit to produce His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us (Galatians 5:22-23).

As Paul instructs:

Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Our job is to submit to the Spirit’s leading through prayer and obedience. His role is to shape our intentions and empower righteous living.

Thus, the Bible provides both solemn warnings about sinful motivations and great hope that the Spirit can align our hearts with what pleases our Father.


In summary, Scripture clearly emphasizes that God cares deeply about our inward intentions and motivations. He searches our hearts and weighs our spirits, looking beyond outward practices.

We must guard our thought lives against sinful intentions like lust, greed and hatred through the Spirit’s power. God wants us to cultivate righteous motivations like humility, integrity, generosity and compassion from the inside out.

While intentions matter greatly, we also need to live out righteous motivations through actions empowered by the Holy Spirit. He alone can shape our desires to match God’s purposes.

Our role is to regularly examine our hearts before the Lord in prayer and Scripture, asking Him to align our motivations with His will and walk in that path by the Spirit’s strength. When our inward convictions and outward conduct align through the Spirit’s work, we please our Father who sees the hidden depths of the heart.

Key Takeaways:

  • God cares deeply about our heart motivations and judges righteously based on them
  • We should constantly examine our hearts and intentions through prayer and God’s Word
  • Sinful intentions like lust, greed and hatred defile us, while righteous ones please God
  • Intentions matter, but must be combined with right actions to please the Lord
  • Jesus condemned hypocrisy and valued inward integrity over outward appearances
  • We can only live righteously by the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts

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