Right Motive in Serving God
1. How does the Christian motive for service compare with worldly reasons?
ONE who chooses the ministry as his life’s work is sure to have his friends ask, Why be a minister? Is it because he really feels that is what God wants, or what is his reason for making this choice? One who goes into the legal or medical fields may feel he has a special talent for such work or that it will give him a good income or position in the community. Another may become a teacher because of the opportunity it gives him to mold the lives of his students. But the individual who enters a life career with truly selfless motives is rare. Yet this was the case of the early disciples of Jesus, just as it is with true Christians today.
2. What attitude did the disciples have toward the ministry?
2 Why did Jesus give up the carpentry instead of devoting his talents to that and gaining renown as a craftsman? Why did Luke the physician discontinue his lucrative profession to devote his life to the ministry? Why did the apostles give up their commercial fishing activities? Certainly these men were not looking for self-interests or a high position in the community when they associated with one who was described as ‘despised and avoided by men.’ (Isa. 53:3) They worked with Jesus in the ministry because they knew he had the truth. When a number of disciples were stumbled due to a difficult teaching, Jesus said to the twelve: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Then Peter replied: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” They knew that learning the truth and then serving God would bring them everlasting life; so they willingly changed their whole way of life to share in the ministry.—John 6:67, 68.
3. Why did one clergyman give up his position?
3 Just as there was a great contrast between the pompous, self-seeking clergy of Jesus’ day and the apostles who associated with him for the love of the truth, so today there is a great difference between the paid clergy of Christendom and those who voluntarily teach and preach as Jehovah’s witnesses. (Matt. 23:5-8; Mic. 3:11) Illustrating this is the comment of a former minister as reported in the Saturday Evening Post, November 17, 1962: “We were not troubled by just this incident, or just our church, but by what the ministry in general had come to mean. We thought of my fellow ministers in our area. All considered themselves Christians. Yet we seemed to be competitors—for the largest membership increase, the most impressive building, the most prominent prospective members . . . Some politicked shamelessly for the friendship of others who might assist in their promotion to more prominent churches. Certainly we never discussed theological questions or how to meet better the spiritual needs of our communities. At ministerial meetings the talk was mostly about buildings, salaries or membership-campaign gimmicks . . . This was not the ministry to which I had felt a call.” Although he still believed in Jesus Christ, he quit the ministry because he felt his life would be wasted as a recreation director or on what seemed to him to be little more than a Sunday-morning, mutual-admiration society.
4. What was Jesus interested in? What did Paul have to say about the right motive for service?
4 Surely just having a large increase in members or having a financially affluent congregation or the largest church was not what interested Christ or those who served with him. Jesus was interested in finding those who would worship God in spirit and in truth, rather than in having large crowds come to hear him preach soothing sermons. In fact, he pointed out that the road that would lead to destruction would be the broad one, but the road to life would be narrow and straight and difficult to follow. Even so, the apostle Paul recognized that there were some who served God with the wrong motive. As he said, “some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry.” That seems to be the case now when modern-day ministers compete for large buildings or large church attendances. However, Paul went on to say, “but others also through good will. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love . . . but the former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive.”—Phil. 1:15-17.
5. How should real interest in true worship be shown?
5 Jehovah does not only look on the service a person renders or his position, but he looks on the heart to determine the motive of those serving him. So it is up to each Christian to consider his personal motive for serving God, whether it is for personal reasons or out of rivalry or a spirit of competition, or out of love and with goodwill and a pure motive. Do not let your “service” be that of a formal worshiper content as long as nothing is required of him. Such ones even begrudge taking the time to discuss their faith. As the former clergyman referred to previously complained, “The people would rather hear about their idea of Christianity than Christ’s . . . Not only didn’t they want to hear about it; they didn’t want to talk about it.” He found that those teaching Sunday-school classes balked at further instruction, and when he tried to develop a church-wide program of small discussion groups in members’ homes to develop them spiritually, no more than ten persons ever attended, and within two months the program was dead. This certainly is a far cry from the Christianity Jesus taught when he said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” Jesus set the lead by showing that true worship is demonstrated by service.—Matt. 22:37.
WILLING SERVICE OF JEHOVAH
6. What attitude do thousands of Christians show today?
6 Just as the psalmist long ago foretold, there are men on the earth today who desire to serve Jehovah whole-souled. David prophesied: “Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force.” (Ps. 110:3) They show a keen interest in learning and studying God’s Word. They are happy to talk about the Scriptures and are moved by a heartfelt desire to serve Jehovah. As a result they dedicate their lives to Jehovah and symbolize it by public baptism. This was the simple, early Christian form of becoming a disciple, and it is the same method that is practiced by Jehovah’s witnesses today. It is wonderful to see thousands taking this step each year. In fact, during 1963, 62,798 individuals worldwide were baptized in symbol of their dedication of their lives to Jehovah to share in the ministry. They are not serving for financial advantage anymore than the early apostles were. Nor are they deterred by the lack of interest shown by the people generally, but they serve for the joy of representing Jehovah and advancing Kingdom interests. They serve for love of God and love of neighbor. They recognize the truthfulness of Jesus’ words, “You cannot slave for God and for Riches,” and so they put the Kingdom interests and the ministry first in their lives.—Matt. 6:24; 1 Cor. 9:18.
7. Why was Satan’s accusation false?
7 From the time of Job it has been Satan’s contention that men serve God for selfish reasons: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? The work of his hands you have blessed . . . But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.” (Job 1:9-11) But Job was not serving God for what he might receive in the way of material comforts or a prosperous way of life. Even when he lost all his possessions, including his sons and daughters, in a series of calamities, still Job said simply: “Jehovah himself has given, and Jehovah himself has taken away. Let the name of Jehovah continue to be blessed.” (Job 1:21) So Job did not serve Jehovah for material benefits, and neither do Jehovah’s people at this time. They feel as the apostle Paul did regarding his service to God, when he said: “We are not peddlers of the word of God as many men are, but as out of sincerity, yes, as sent from God, under God’s view, in company with Christ, we are speaking.”—2 Cor. 2:17.
8. How do Jehovah’s witnesses follow the example of Paul?
8 It may be quite startling to many to realize that in the 22,761 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses worldwide, neither the presiding minister nor his ministerial assistants are serving because they receive a salary or a parish home or retirement benefits or anything like that. Rather, they support themselves as the early Christians did and accept the ministry as a trust from God. In this they follow the example of the apostle Paul. To be no burden on the Christians he served, he worked at his trade as a tentmaker. Therefore he could state: “I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me.” Paul also emphasized the right motive for sharing in the ministry when he stated: “By thus laboring you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” So Paul was not in the ministry for some personal advantage, but, rather, for the joy that he gained in helping others and sharing the truth with them.—Acts 18:3; 20:33-35.
REWARDS AND TRIALS OF SERVICE
9. What should our faith include? Give examples of men of faith and what they looked forward to.
9 Nevertheless, the Scriptures show that Jehovah holds out many spiritual blessings and also the reward of everlasting life to those who serve him. This is not a selfish inducement to service, but, rather, an encouragement to faith and perseverance and an evidence of Jehovah’s love. The Scriptures tell how men of faith in ancient times had confidence in the promises Jehovah gave and were encouraged despite fierce opposition. Thus Hebrews 11:6 states: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” We are told that Abraham looked forward to God’s kingdom arrangement, “awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.” Of Moses it is stated: “He esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.”—Heb. 11:10, 26.
10. How do we know it is not wrong to look forward to the promise of a reward?
10 Paul also mentioned the Christian hope in the future as a reason for serving when he wrote the Colossians: “We heard of your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. This hope you heard of before by the telling of the truth of that good news.” Even of Jesus it was said: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” So it is not selfish or wrong to believe that God becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him, nor can it be said that our motive in serving is wrong because we have such a hope.—Col. 1:4, 5; Heb. 12:2; Rom. 12:12.
11. How does the prospect of future blessings help one?
11 It is this prospect of life in the new system of things with all its wonderful blessings that often moves new students of the Scriptures to share the truth with others, and as they progress to maturity it is the conviction of what they have learned that keeps them faithful even after years of service. It gives them a firm determination to meet the divine requirements for life, and they have confidence that God will reward those faithfully serving him, even though they may be faced with death due to their faithful worship, just as Jesus was. Jesus foreknew that in the time of the end, in which we are now living, there would be many men and women earnestly serving God, and so he prophesied: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
12. Why should we continue in the house-to-house ministry despite the opposition encountered?
12 Being a house-to-house preacher of the good news is perhaps the most difficult of all jobs. It is not going to bring one a life of popularity or flattering titles or a comfortable income or powerful connections in government anymore than it did for Jesus. The fact that the ministers of Christendom generally do have public esteem and a respected social position, salary inducements, and so forth, tends to classify them as friends of the world, like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day who were not the true proclaimers of the good news but actually opposers of it. Those who work to gain the approval of the present world system have their reward now, but those who serve to advance the Kingdom interests look forward to the reward of life in the new order of righteousness. They find that with a knowledge of God’s Word comes the obligation to use it, and they are happy to have such a privilege. Actually every Christian is obliged to serve as a minister of God; otherwise he cannot truly say he is a Christian or follower of Christ. Despite the hardships, the ministry is the greatest privilege a man can enjoy, an opportunity that cannot be bought with money, being granted by God.—Matt. 23:8-10; Jas. 4:4; John 17:14.
13. How and why have Christians shown their devotion to Jehovah regardless of persecution?
13 Jehovah’s witnesses expect that sharing in the ministry will bring opposition, even from those who also profess to be Christians. They have often been falsely accused of being spies, Zionists, seditionists, just as Paul was accused in his day of being ‘a pestilent fellow, stirring up seditions among the Jews, and a spearhead of the sect of the Nazarenes.’ During war years Witnesses were given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying. In some countries they endured long years in prison because of refusing to forsake their neutral position as ministers of Jehovah, and some still suffer imprisonment. Why do they consider the service of God so important that they even give their lives for it? Because they believe the truth of God’s Word and have the hope of gaining the reward of everlasting life. As Paul explained, “Is it, in fact, men I am now trying to persuade or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I were yet pleasing men, I would not be Christ’s slave.” Paul was so convinced of God’s faithfulness that he declared: “Neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come . . . will be able to separate us from God’s love.” Paul showed his appreciation for God’s love by his service.—Acts 24:5; Gal. 1:10; Rom. 8:38, 39.
14. What does love have to do with service?
14 Jesus likewise, even knowing the portion that was in store for him, persisted in his faithful service of Jehovah. He had come to do his Father’s will and resolved to carry it out even though it meant his death. His steadfast course and his desire to be faithful under all circumstances were also based on love, as he said: “in order for the world to know that I love the Father.” Such love today helps us to witness to all we meet with perfect freedom of speech, not holding back from explaining the truth to others. As the apostle John said: “There is no fear in love.” And why do Christians have this unwavering love? ‘Because God first loved us.’—John 14:31; 1 John 4:17-19.
SERVING FOR LOVE OF GOD
15. Why did Jesus and the apostles serve God?
15 If someone asked you why a Christian should serve God, how would you answer? One young publisher of the good news who offered some Bible literature to a householder was asked what she would get for her work. She answered, “Everlasting life!” She had faith in Jehovah’s promise. What reason would you give for serving God that might help encourage someone else to serve? We might ask, Why did Jesus serve Jehovah? Because his love for the Father moved him to do his Father’s will and witness to the truth. (John 18:37) Why did Paul serve God? Because he knew it meant life for him and for those who listened to the message. That was why he served as an ambassador of the good news, carrying on the work Christ started.—2 Cor. 5:20.
16. What are some strong reasons for serving?
16 So we can say that our service is based on love for God and neighbor, that it is according to Jesus’ own instructions, and that it means salvation to carry it out. (Matt. 22:37-39; 28:19; 1 Tim. 4:16) Serving God gives a real reason for living, not just for personal survival, but to contribute something upbuilding to others, giving them hope of life according to God’s purpose.—Rom. 8:28.
17. On what should our service be based, and why?
17 It may be that some start in the house-to-house ministry, particularly children, because of being influenced by family or friends. They associate with the local congregation and share in the service without putting their heart in it. Others may feel that this is the best religion they have found and yet they have never studied deeply enough to have an impelling desire to share what they have learned. A few may enjoy the good association with upright people and feel it is worth the effort to cultivate, while others may even associate for selfish reasons to corrupt or destroy the faith of those they meet. But whatever the reason, Jehovah knows the heart, and those serving for the wrong motive will never receive his blessing or the reward of life. So our service should not be based on fear of consequences due to failure to serve, nor for selfish personal reasons, but, rather, on a true and heartfelt love for our Creator.—2 Cor. 6:1, 2; Jer. 20:9.
18. What attitude should we have toward those we serve?
18 There is a need for each one to build up and strengthen his faith, his love and appreciation of the truth, and then practice diligently the righteousness of God that makes our service acceptable to him. One who shares in the ministry should be deeply concerned about those to whom he ministers and bend every effort to improve his presentation and effectiveness so that he will be able to aid them. This is the attitude that Jehovah himself expressed at Ezekiel 33:11: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die?” Our service now may well mean life for ourselves as well as for others.
19. What will happen to those serving for selfish motives?
19 If some serve to please relatives or loved ones, what will happen when this old system nears its end and Gog of Magog attacks Jehovah’s people? If our reason for serving God is actually to please men, we will not be pleasing to God nor will we hold up under the pressure of this all-out attack. (Ezek. 38:11, 16) Those who serve for wrong reasons or for personal interests will be weeded out after a while. Not only will they have opposition from worldly friends or even from their own family as in Job’s case, but they will wither under the false charges often leveled against Christians. If those who serve for false motives do not drop out in time by themselves because of lack of faith, Jehovah himself by means of the angels will cull out those who are undeserving of life and will consign them to destruction at the coming battle of Armageddon. (Matt. 24:12; 13:20, 21, 38-41) It is clear that those who may serve temporarily for selfish reasons only fool themselves. Jesus emphasized this when he said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matt. 7:21-23.
20. How can we strengthen our position in Jehovah’s favor?
20 If we hope to be among the multitude of true praisers of Jehovah who will receive a crown of life, then we must not be swayed by any opposition that may come against us. Instead, like the discreet man of Jesus’ illustration, we will build our house upon the rock-mass of obedience to Christ Jesus, establishing our faith in him and working to deepen, enlarge and strengthen our knowledge of the truth, living up to it and aiding others also to gain a similarly solid foundation of obedience that will mean life. Then when the storms of opposition that the Scriptures foretell sweep down on Jehovah’s people in trouble such as will never be seen again, our faithful obedience will not be swept away, but will stand up under all battering opposition and aid us in standing firm for right worship. (Matt. 7:24-27) There is nothing that we can give to God to show our love for him and our appreciation for life and the future blessings that he holds out for us except our worship and service; so we should give this wholeheartedly.—Heb. 13:15.
21. What blessings does Jehovah give his servants now, and what is required of us?
21 Knowing and serving Jehovah bring blessings even now. We do not have cause to fret due to the unsettled conditions in the world, but, rather, have peace of mind and confidence because of our knowledge of the Scriptures. While we may lose the friendship of worldly acquaintances or even our own family, we receive brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and homes a hundredfold from Jehovah’s family, and, in addition, the promise of everlasting life. We can be confident of this, “for God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” To gain this Paul counsels: “But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:10-12; Rom. 8:6; Mark 10:30.
22. What results in right standing with Jehovah? What is the advantage for the one serving God?
22 Thus while the majority may choose a career because of personal desires for prestige or a good financial return, these are not what win God’s favor. But one’s serving for the Scriptural motives of love for God and neighbor and with appreciation for the blessings and hope Jehovah holds out does result in right standing with God. Just as there is much to be done now in the work of Jehovah and in sharing the truth with men seeking God, so there will be much to be accomplished in beautifying and populating the earth during the thousand-year reign of Christ. The motive for serving then will continue to be our love for Jehovah. If you desire to live in that happy time, then show it by faithful service. Remember that Jehovah’s book of remembrance is being written now. As his Word records, “‘And they will certainly become mine,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘at the day when I am producing a special property. And I will show compassion upon them, just as a man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him. And you people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.’”—Mal. 3:17, 18.