If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
Empty acts of service and offering, void of God’s love, are worthless. Yet because we want structure in our lives, we often go down the path of empty service and offering. We do the good thing without checking to ask God if it’s the godly thing.
We sometimes serve, claiming it’s because we want to honor God, but if we’re really honest with ourselves, we have other reasons. We like to hang out with the people who are serving. We like the attention or recognition. We enjoy having time away from home. We’d like to move on to something else, but we’d rather stay where we’re comfortable and not take a risk. We don’t know who else would take our place, so we serve out of guilt or obligation.
Some of these reasons aren’t bad in and of themselves, but any reason that overshadows our desire to serve God with our whole hearts distracts us from the purpose of serving. If we sacrifice without love, we basically cancel out the sacrifice.
The same is true with using the gifts God has given us. If we try to use them without love, we’re really not using them at all. If we live in faith that’s void of love, we really don’t have faith as we believe we do. Anything that we do for God that is void of love, isn’t truly for God, because God and His love aren’t separated. We cannot contradict our giving, service, sacrifice, and faith from His love and still call it godly.
Don’t get all stressed out about whether or not God is “counting” your efforts and faith because of something you did or didn’t do. The point isn’t to get legalistic in loving God and others. That in and of itself contradicts God’s love. The way we can know if we’re giving, serving, sacrificing, and living faithfully with God’s love is to ask Him. Seek to know Him authentically, and His love will come with the intimacy.
If you are serving because God is guiding you to use the gifts He’s given you as well as providing you with the opportunity, and you respond in obedience, you will live out loud with His love as you stay in a close relationship with Him. His service and love cannot be separated. It’s just when we distort either His service or love that we can miss something. Our assumptions about serving God or what His love is and what it looks like to live it out loud is what gets us into trouble. We don’t get to define what is filled with God’s love. God does.
The same is true in faith, giving, sacrifice, and anything else that has to do with living out loud for God. They cannot be separated from His love. Our assumptions aren’t what determines what each looks like. God defines each.
It’s as if God’s love has the mathematical worth. Without it, regardless of what you add, the sum will be zero. With it, numbers exponentially multiply.
Dear God, I don’t want to make any effort to give, serve, or sacrifice outside of Your will. I know everything within Your will includes love—not love as I define it but love as You command. You provide the power, strength, and boldness along with Your love. You give me the opportunity to love and equip me with everything necessary to pour love onto others. I praise You for challenging me to not live as I think You want me to live but only as You say I must live to remain in a thriving relationship with You. I praise You for who You are and how You provide and care for me as well as those throughout Your kingdom.