Bible Question:

Why is the discipline of service a diminishing aspect of the Christian life? What is the true value of service?

Bible Answer:

The Lord Jesus wants more than our service. He wants more than our heart’s desire for Him. He wants both. Some Christians get trapped into thinking that God really wants us to be busy in serving Him. Others say that He really wants only our heart. Both views are wrong.

This is a problem within the church for those who are “serving the Lord.” Many in the church who are “serving the Lord” are really serving themselves. Many are so busy that they spend little time in prayer, confessing their sins, or in the study of His Word. Most church workers are consumed with the busy activities of the church and not with the Lord Jesus. Few would turn down the opportunity to “serve the Lord” in leadership or teaching, but they would never want to wash the dishes or sweep the floor because their real motivation is not serving Jesus. We all have spiritual gifts, but God did not give us gifts with the intent that we would avoid serving by washing one another’s feet. Jesus did that too! Why does this happen? The answer is illustrated in the Old Testament in the life of King Saul. King Saul had just finished a battle with the Amalekites. He obeyed the Lord but he made one exception to the Lord’s command. He disobeyed the Lord by keeping the best spoils of the battle. Oh, he served the Lord. He went to war against the Amalekites and defeated them and then made a small “adjustment” to God’s command. So God sent the prophet Samuel to Saul with this message.

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” (NASB) 1 Samuel 15:22

Saul had an obedience problem.

Our Motivation

Yet Samuel does not say that God wants ONLY our obedience. We have all found that a person can obey unwillingly. There is an old story about a boy who after being told to sit down, said to his parent that he would sit down but he would be standing up on the inside. That is not the kind of obedience the Lord is looking for. God wants more than external service. He wants our heart – our passion for Him.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (NASB) Luke 12:34

If He has our heart, He has our obedience. He wants our service to come from our heart! If He has our heart, He has our service – He has everything.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (NASB) Matthew 6:20-21

The Cure

When the heart goes, our service drops, stops or slips into an opportunity for personal honor and glory. Scripture becomes a tool to say what we want it to say and other issues become important – not Jesus. This is the message of the church at Ephesus.

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (NASB) Rev. 2:1-6

They were serving the Lord. They were fighting evil, rejecting false apostles and false doctrine. That sounds great and it was great. This would be wonderful praise for any church. They were eagerly serving the Lord. They were busy and had the energy for ministry. Yet, they had a problem. They were serving the Lord, but not from a heart of love. They had other motivations. The Holy Spirit praised them for their service and then told them to add love – “you have left your first love.” They were busy Christians without a heart for God. So who were they serving?


Some in the church today are busy, very busy serving someone or something from their hearts, but often it is not the Lord Jesus. They are serving but their heart, are not focused on Jesus. Often our service is not for the Lord but for ourselves. Good intentions turn to self-service. It happens easily. Many Christians start with hearts committed to serving Jesus and somewhere along the way we find ourselves serving service. God wants us serving Him from our hearts. Here are two verses to remind us Jesus wants our hearts while we serve Him.


If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (NASB) John 14:15

When we truly love our Lord, we will WANT to serve Him. That is the mark of a true relationship with Him! A heart that WANTS to serve Jesus – to please Him!

You are My friends, if you do what I command you. (NASB) John 15;14