Beware of Serving God


“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24–25)

We do not glorify God by providing his needs, but by praying that he would provide ours — and trusting him to answer, and living in the joy of that all-providing care as we lay down our lives in love for other people.

Here we are at the heart of the good news of Christian Hedonism. God’s insistence that we ask him to give us help so that he gets glory. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). This forces on us the startling fact that we must beware of thinking he needs us. We must beware of serving God, and we must take special care to let him serve us, lest we rob him of his glory. “God is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:25).

This sounds very strange. Most of us think serving God is a totally positive thing. We have not considered that serving God may be an insult to him. But meditation on the very meaning of prayer makes this plain.

In the novel, Robinson Crusoe, the hero, took Psalm 50:12–15 as his favorite text to hope in as he’s stranded on the island: God says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. . . . Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Which means: there is a way to serve God that would belittle him as needy of our service. Oh, how careful we must be not to preempt the mighty grace of God in Christ. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He aims to be the servant. He aims to get the glory as the Giver.