Nevertheless they will be his servants, that they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations.
-II Chronicles 12:8
The question is never “Will I serve?” It’s “Who will I serve?” Just ask Bob Dylan:
“You may be the heavyweight champion of the world, you may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
(from “Gotta Serve Somebody”)
The most egotistical of us is a servant, like it or not, know it or not. As Dylan rightly said, we serve somebody; something – ourselves, human opinion, carnal desire, power, money, the list is endless. We’ve chosen who/what will govern us today, and much of our freedom and general happiness will be determined by that choice.
King Rehoboam, himself a ruler, learned this the hard way when he chose who would govern him and Judah. After a good start as recorded in II Chronicles, he openly rejected God’s law and thereby God Himself. As usual, rejection of divine rule meant withdrawal of divine protection, and Shishak of Egypt attacked and conquered Judah.
Rehoboam then led Judah in repentance, and God forgave with a caveat: they would survive, but they’d also be allowed to learn the difference between serving God and serving anything else. It’s as if the Lord said, “You didn’t like working for me? Try another employer, and let’s see how you’re treated.” (See the above verse from II Chronicles)
I know this story pretty well, and having been allowed to experience the striking differences between working for God versus working for Baal and Co., a few points stand out.
God Values the Employee over the Work
Our works matter, and I’m leery of any teaching suggesting otherwise. Though none of us is justified by good works (Ephesians 2:9) they’re still expected of us (James 2:26) and are a primary means by which our lights shine before men. (Matthew 5:16)
That said, we are more to God than our works, and that alone distinguishes Him from other employers. They value you when you perform; He values you regardless. So when Mary and Martha were entertaining Jesus, He commended Martha for all her hosting efforts, but He praised Mary’s desire to commune with Him even more. (Luke 10:41) Our Boss wants our love first; our service second. And how often do you hear that from the man at the top?
Serving God Builds Us Up; Serving Other Gods Drains Us
Serve the flesh, and it will keep demanding more.
A little porn will no longer be enough; more lasciviousness will required. A few drugs won’t suffice; binges will follow. Serving people as a manpleaser will be just as demanding, because the more you try making everyone happy, the more they’ll assumed you’re there only for their pleasure. And serving power may be the most exhausting of all, because it never says “enough.” It always screams “More!”
Serving anyone or anything other than God is an invitation to being drained from within and without, because the World, Flesh and Devil are cruel taskmasters who simply can’t be satisfied.
But the more fervently you try serving God, the more energized, joyful, and potent you become. It’s as if the more we strive to please Him, the more rested and refreshed we are. That’s ironic and beautiful.
Serving God Liberates; Serving Other Gods Enslaves
When Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden light, He wasn’t speaking poetically or symbolically.(Matthew 11:30) I’ll bet you can testify to this yourself. When you serve Him, don’t you find He gives immeasurable liberty, calling us to rest before we ourselves know we’re tired; blessing our service in so many ways it hardly feels like service at all?
It’s amazing, really, how strong we get when we paradoxically are exhausting ourselves for Him. True, we can burn out if we’re not careful, but He’s never the one who exacts that sort of overtime from us. Everyone I’ve known who gave herself or himself to something other than God found that the god he or she served made life smaller, more constricted, more helpless. Serve the author of freedom and you get freedom’s benefits. Serve a tyrant and you get a tyrant’s terms.
The other gods are still out there today, posting their want ads and beckoning. I hope experience will remind us, when we consider applying at the wrong company, what the environment was like in the other gods headquarters and, by contrast, what the pastures are like when we follow, serve, and love the true Shepherd.
It will, as always, be our choice who were serve. And is it really such a hard one