Motivation is defined as a motivating force, stimulus, or influence (as a drive or incentive) (“Motivation,” n.d.).
Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.
Maslow made 5 basic assumptions regarding motivation. First, motivation is holistic and involves the entire being of a person being motivated. Second is that motivation is complex and usually comes as a result of multiple motivating factors. The third assumption is that people are continually motivated. The fourth assumption is that all people are motivated by basic needs for survival, safety, and friendship. Each need may be met in different ways and contexts but each is fundamentally present in all humans. The fifth and final assumption is that needs can be arranged on a hierarchy (Feist, Feist, & Roberts, 2013, pp. 255-256).
What Does Scripture Say About Motivation?
Maslow’s assumptions point to and support his hierarchy of basic needs in the following order, (1) physiological needs, (2) safety, (3) love and belonging, (4) esteem, and (5) self-actualization. According to Maslow each preceding need has to be met in order to reach self-actualization, which resembles the type of holistically healthy person we are exhorted to be in Scripture. Galatians 5:13-26 describes living a free life by the Spirit, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:14, 24-25, New International Version). This scriptural concept is contrary to Maslow’s theory about the hierarchy of basic needs. It implies that we ought to strive first for a type of spirit-filled actualization that resembles much of Maslow’s description of a self-actualized person. When Jesus was led into the wilderness He was tempted with physiological needs (Matt. 4:3), safety and belonging needs (Matt. 4:6), and esteem needs (Matt. 4:9). However, He rebuked each temptation for the sake of His relationship with God. Jesus knows that His needs will be met and He teaches us to follow His example. Jesus said, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, New International Version). Maslow’s assumptions do contain truth and God knows how true they hold for us, but He desires for us to not be mastered by motivations of the flesh instead we are to seek Him first and live by the Spirit.
I am personally motivated by the faith and hope that I have in Christ, which comes about by careful consideration of the Word of God. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, New International Version), which He was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. Scripture is the basis for my worldview and my motivation. I do have failures, but I am encouraged by the grace extended to me through Christ and the eternal implications of passing through this life with Christ as my Lord.
Motivation. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motivation
Feist, J., Feist, G. J., & Roberts, T. (2013). Theories of personality (8th Edition ed.). New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.