Some disciplines refresh us and energize us so that we can serve and pour our lives out for others. When it comes to spiritual disciplines, these are two sides of one coin. We cannot merely learn, memorize, and forever neglect the people around us. This will not create a healthy Christian life. Instead, we are called to serve those around us. Service, too, can be a way that God grows us and trains us in Christlikeness. With this in mind, service is not something that we start once we reach a particular spiritual position. It is something that all Christians are called to, but this will look different in each of our lives.
The Biblical Charge
Moses says to the people of God, “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him” (Deut. 13:4). Everything in this verse discusses the idea of obedience to God; serving is a way that we are obedient.
From Gladness and Gratitude
The Old Testament also mentions that gladness and gratitude will lead motivate us to serve the Lord.
1 Samuel 12:24 “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”
Psalm 100:2 “serve the Lord with gladness.”
These ideas show us that our love for God and delight in him will lead to service. While service often requires effort, it is motivated by delighting in who God is.
Jesus gives us an example that serving others should come from humility. This is clearly seen when he washes the feet of the disciples, a task that was seen as too lowly for anyone else.
The New Testament also calls us to serve one another out of love Galatians 5:13 says this “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Two Vices Associated With Service
Rebecca DeYoung helpfully illustrates what sloth is like in the Christian life:
According to this picture of the Christian life, being a Christian is like being married: both involve accepting a new identity that needs to be lived out, day by day, for the rest of your life. A man and a woman take their vows on their wedding day, and from that moment on they are married. Yet being married, living out those vows and making them a living reality, will take all of their efforts for a lifetime. Their love and identity have a now and not-yet character. It is both a gift and a life-transforming task. It is this transformation of our identity by God’s love that the slothful person resists.
In a sense, then, it’s true that slothful people want the easy life. They find detachment from the old selfish nature too difficult, painful, and burdensome, so they neglect to perform the actions that would maintain and deepen relationships of love. They harden their hearts toward any change that requires sacrifice or surrender on their part. Wanting love to come easily and comfortably is like preferring the sentiment of pop songs and Hollywood romances. It feels wonderful for a little while, but these feelings and momentary “highs” cannot sustain a relationship. They come cheap but don’t last. The talk about “forever” has to be sustained by commitments that require daily decisions to keep on loving, even when it’s hard or unexciting or doesn’t yield a big emotional payoff. Likewise, sloth is the vice of those who want the security of having God’s love without the real sacrifice and ongoing struggle to be made anew.
Can’t we see how this relates to the area of service? Service directs us away from ourselves, but the slothful person is too busy being concerned about the ease of their own life. The same thing that must be done away with prevents the steps we need to take. The slothful person does spend a lot of effort on things, but it is not for the purpose of others but in distracting themselves. What are you spending your time on? Do you spend more energy distracting yourself from the needs around you or entering into them and serving?
The other vice that wrecks our service is vainglory. Where sloth says, “I don’t want to give the effort,” vainglory says, “everyone, look at my effort.” Vainglory cannot let a good deed go unnoticed. They must tell others about it, and they do it for fame. Often they can even overplay how difficult the task was just to get applause from those around them. You’ve witnessed it before. Maybe you have fallen into the trap yourself, someone asks how a recent service event has gone, and you go into detail about the challenges. Why would you do that? Maybe you are just giving some details, but it might reveal a heart that wants the person to know just how much you sacrificed.
Putting Them Together
Knowing these two vices should give us balance. We don’t want to avoid serving all together just because we might have mixed motives. If we wait for completely pure motives, we will never do anything, and it will look much closer to sloth than faithfulness. If we never think about our motives, we could harm service by making it all about us. Instead, let’s prayerfully serve while asking God to help us with our motives.
What About You?
Does your understanding of service flow from the Biblical pattern? When it does come, is it more reflective of Christ’s virtue, or do our vices drive it? Fortunately, our loving Savior can and does use our flawed attempts. Not only that, but he graciously gives us both the ability and desire for service. In doing service, he lavishes grace even more as he shapes us during the service. The next post will explore serving in various areas of life.
 Donald S Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1997), 118.
 Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies (Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press, 2009), 88.
 DeYoung, Glittering Vices, 91.
 DeYoung, Glittering Vices, 89.
 For a terrific explanation of this vice Rebecca DeYoung’s chapter is recommended: DeYoung, Glittering Vices, 59-77.