There exists an inherent danger of confusing serving God with being a servant of God. Quite often, we lull ourselves into the complacency of believing we are doing God a favor by “serving” Him or being involved in ministry somehow. However, there is a huge difference between serving Him and being His servant.
In many churches, the prevailing consensus on what constitutes serving God is singing in the choir, being a deacon or usher, tithing regularly, working in the church nursery, teaching a Bible study class, or a variety of similar faith- or benevolence-based activities. We develop spiritual identity or self-worth by “serving God” all while overlooking the fact that serving Him is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). The intent here is not to minimize anyone’s involvement in ministry or question their motives. I am simply pointing out that although our serving activities are noble and necessary, the truth of the matter is they are the least we can do.
By way of explanation, the Greek word translated as “serving” or “service” (latreia) implies a ministration or divine service of God. It involves the rendering of menial service such as worship. Here again, involvement in such things (e.g., worship) is the entry level, basic acts of service toward God. They involve the doing of Christianity but not necessarily the being. For example, I may worship God, yet not be fully committed or surrendered to Him. I may go through the motions of singing in the choir or teaching a Bible study class, yet my heart may not be fully engaged. As Jesus said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” [Mark 7:6].
By way of a relationship example, I’ve often said convenience and comfort are the enemies of commitment. In a dating relationship, one person may be going through the motions although fully enjoying the convenience and comfort of the companionship. Yet, the other person may be fully engaged, in love, and genuinely desiring to please the other person. One is happy just to be dating; the other is ecstatic to love that particular person.
Being God’s Servant
Being a servant is something altogether different than mere service. Several New Testament writers identified themselves as “bondservants” of God (Paul, James, Peter, Jude). The Greek word used (doulos) implies voluntary subjection or subservience. Even Jesus took the form of a bondservant when He came to earth in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).
In a master-servant relationship, the master speaks, directs and decides. The servant listens and obeys. There is no resistance or negotiation, simply obedience to the master’s desire.
See, being a servant of God does not involve a 40-hour workweek or even an 8-hour church day. It isn’t what we do periodically then “go home” to do our own thing or pursue our own desires and pleasures until its time for our Christian “service” again. The true essence of a bondservant of God involves 24/7 of listening to and obeying the Master. In the case of a Christian, that includes reading His Word, spending time with Him in prayer, hearing His Spirit, sensing His presence, and obeying Him immediately. It is:
- Going when He says, “Go” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Stopping what He says to “Lay aside” or “Put off,” (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 2:1; Ephesians 4:20-24)
- Doing precisely and fully what He says, not merely hearing what He says (James 1:22)
Being God’s servant involves reacting to the Master’s call without delay. It includes instant participation whenever He calls, for whatever reason He calls, to whatever assignment He gives. And I do this cheerfully without arguing, resisting, ignoring, inserting myself into the conversation, or negotiating my level of involvement.
I am not God’s servant simply because I serve Him. I serve Him because I willingly and gratefully am His bondservant and seek only to please Him.
My service doesn’t expect anything in return nor is it performed from fear or obligation. I am willingly His servant, to perform what He asks, without delay, with a grateful, loving and reverent heart. No assignment is too small or too overwhelmingly large.
He gifts, positions, and anoints me according to His purpose, not mine. God is sovereign and knows my capabilities and purpose better than I do. He works all things for my good and His ultimate purpose. My role as His servant is to obey immediately, with the right heart attitude – then anticipate my Master’s next assignment. I do all this not to earn His favor but because He has already enveloped me in it.
This is is the heart of a true servant. He or she does everything to please the Master and hear Him say, “Well done, faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).