Can you “serve” God for all the wrong reasons? Does motivation matter? This is a question explored in the Old Testament book of Job.
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1.9-11 NIV11)
Satan is saying that Job’s service of God is merely self interest. He is the Lord’s servant, “a man who fears God and shuns evil”, primarily because it pays off. Satan claims that if God were to take away the blessing, Job will curse God. No benefit, no love and service.
Why are we “the Lord’s servants”? It is an important question to ponder. Is it because it “pays”? Because he will bless us? Because we get to escape God’s just judgment? Because we get to enjoy eternal life? If we were not guaranteed these things, would we still serve the Lord?
It can be so easy to stop at the gift and miss the giver; to be amazed at what he has done for us and miss that these blessings are just an expression of who he is. As amazing as those blessings are, God in himself is more so.
Jonathan Edwards says it like this: “The divine excellency and glory of God… is the primary reason, why a true saint loves these things; and not any supposed interest that he has in them, or any conceived benefit that he has received from them, or shall receive from them, or any such imagined relation in which they bear to his interest.”
In simpler language – we should love and serve the Lord primarily because of who he is, and not merely because what he does for us. To love him primarily for his blessings is to love what he does for us – and when you think about this, that is self-interest.
The one who truly loves and serves the Lord will be able to say with the prophet Habakkuk – “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. ” (Hab. 3.17-18 NIV11)
Pastor | Trinity Church Brighton
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