Good Serving, Bad Serving


Peter Mathias, the author of this post, is serving with our church as a church planting intern, and is planning to plant a church in Washington, D.C. To find out more about our Residency and Church Planting internship, visit


This Sunday's sermon got me thinking: we live in a day where people all around us are obsessed with serving. The Red Cross alone has 97 million volunteers worldwide.  This amazing craze begs the question, “what is our motivation in serving?”  I’d venture to say that we are often ill-motivated.  Yes, helping others is a great thing that we should all do.  However, what if we dug deep and looked at the heart behind our serving.  Could we possibly find a more fulfilling way to serve?

Misled Motivations

There are plenty of wrong motivations for serving, but here are a couple of the most common:

  1. To Earn Status. When others see us serving we often enjoy that they can look at us and say, “what a great guy." Most of us would all agree, we want to be seen as good people. When we take time to help a friend move we like the thanks and praise we get for taking time to help them.  But is the praise and thanks of man our motivation? Furthermore, when we dig deep into our hearts do we find our motivation for serving based in wanting God to see us as good rather then seeing our sin?  This is an easy trap to fall into, however it goes completely against the grace that God gives us through Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no amount of good deeds that we can do to earn status with God. Jesus did that for us on the Cross.
  2. False Guilt. Closely linked to the former, often times we have a false sense that we need to do something to make up for our wrong doings.  It can be difficult for us to wrap our minds around confession and repentance leading to forgiveness.  It seems more tangible to take action to earn something.  However, in realizing that the concept of grace is such that we do not have to earn it, we can be freed from our false guilt to serve.

Why We Should Serve

 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” –Galatians 5:13

The Gospel of Jesus Christ sets us free to serve one another without a thought of what we might get in return.  The pressure to feel as if everyone should see our great acts of service is released when we recognize our status as a forgiven child of God.  The temporary fulfillment that we find in helping others is replaced with an unchangeable fulfillment found at the Cross of Jesus.

Now, we can be freed to serve one another in love.  True love (and therefore serving) consists of us laying down our desires for the sake of our friends.  When we find our security in the grace shown to us by Jesus Christ we can and will be motivated to serve others as Christ intended us too.