“Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’” (Job 1:9)
A few years ago, I was on an errand of some sort, and I found myself driving through the snowy side streets of inner-city Indianapolis. In places, the snow was four or five inches deep, and for my light-weight, low-riding Honda, it proved to be impassable: soon I was stuck in the middle of the road with tires spinning hopelessly. As I began to rock the car back and forth (which is rather challenging with a manual transmission), I saw a stranger walking by. A young man in his late teens or early twenties walked just behind my car. I opened my door and asked him if he could give me a push, and I’ll never forget his response:
“I’ll push you for five bucks.”
I turned down the young man’s offer and finally got myself moving again without his help. But the deal he proposed stuck with me: I asked for a small, harmless favor, but he saw an opportunity to get something for himself.
“What’s in it for me?” This is a natural (if selfish) question that nearly everyone asks sometime or other. The most dangerous place for this question to appear is in our relationship with God. And yet, if we’re not careful, the way we relate to God can be as selfish as the motives of the young man I met on that snowy street.
Are we in relationship with God for selfish reasons? Do we serve God because of what we receive from him? Think about how you pray: what kinds of things do you pray for? How often do you pray simply by giving thanks to God for who he is? How often do you pray simply by confessing your sins to him? I believe that many Christians pray mostly about their own needs and desires. We tend to think of God as a divine vending machine that will dispense grace if we ask for it correctly.
This tendency extends beyond our prayer life, as well. What motivates us to gather for worship? Why do we give our tithes and offerings to God? Why do we study the Bible and apply it to our daily lives? If we do these things so that God will bless us in return, then we are in danger of being accused just like Job was.
In the first two chapters of the book bearing his name, Job is accused by Satan (whose name means “the Accuser”) of serving God with less than pure motives. Job is incredibly wealthy and successful, and he has lived a blameless life. But the Accuser challenges God to take away Job’s material blessings – his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and even his children – to see if Job will still serve God.
Would we worship and revere God for nothing? Would we serve him if there were nothing in it for us? Can we agree with the suffering Job, who remained true to God despite unspeakable losses?
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;
the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”