There is a Pharisee in all of us trying to work their way toward glory. And the problem, beyond just the Pharisee being self-reliant, is that the glory they are often seeking is their own.
This post is a continuation of my last, about how to fight Phariseeism. My last post hopefully made you more aware of the Pharisee’s pull toward public service and encouraged you to worship God in private prayer. But this post is even more important because it exposes the Pharisee’s motive and identifies the place where religion goes wrong.
The dangerous motive is prioritizing heaven with the primary goal of personal happiness. This motive has drawn millions to religion and left them damned for eternity. You may recognize its deceptive message being spread through the health, wealth, and prosperity movement, but it has also snuck its way into the “more devout” branches of Christianity.
Selfish service is hard to avoid. The appearance of serving God and others while actually serving ourselves is enticing. It’s Christianity as a means to my end. It’s becoming Christian to become a better me. It’s about putting on the religious clothing that disguises pride as humility.
It’s a tricky because there is a small detail that makes a crucial difference between the people who are seeking God out of self-interest and the people who are seeking God while recognizing it is in their best interest. The difference lies between those who are using God as a means to their own glory, and those who are seeking God’s glory as an end in-and-of itself.
When the major concern is to do things God’s way because of what you’ll get out of it, you’re not actually doing things God’s way. Just a couple weeks ago I heard a preacher say, “All God has ever wanted was a relationship with you.” I think that’s misleading. All God has ever wanted is His own glory, and everything He does is in line with that ultimate purpose. Christianity has always been, and forever will be, entirely about the glory of God.
So often Christianity is used to become a better person. People may use the Bible to set standards in their family or to guide their relationships, but if you’re not using the Bible to direct that family or relationship to the glory of God, you’re missing it.
“Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves. I cannot say to my wife: ‘I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal….’ It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view. I cannot say to my son, ‘I love playing ball with you-so that you will cut the grass.’ If you heart really delights in playing ball with him that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to something.” (John Piper)
Here’s the hard question: “How do I know if I’m simply using God as a means to an end?”
Matthew 6 has helped me clarify this idea in my mind, putting into place the balance of seeking God’s glory and doing what’s best for me. It says we are to “seek first the kingdom of God” and the expected byproduct will be blessing. I like to call it the “all-these-things-will-be-added attitude.” Even in the Lord’s Prayer, although we’re praying for daily provision and protection, it’s ultimately under the main thrust of the prayer, which is to hallow (glorify) God’s name. So yes, pray for blessings in your life, but recognize that those blessings are only good to the extent that God is glorified through them.
Enjoy the rewards God gives, but be devoted to the glory He gets. Live your life for God’s glory (and that will be the best and most rewarding decision you ever make).
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
One thought on “Selfish Service”
Great post. I hear a lot of conversations that frame Christianity as nothing more than an ego boost. It comes in different forms:
“God saved you because he saw your true worth”
“God just wants you to be happy”
Even Heaven is described in a selfish way–looking forward to the mansions rather than the One you’ll be living with. We need to constantly be checking our motives for why we do what we do. Because “selfish service” most definitely sneaks in quite easily.
Thanks for the challenge!
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