Recently I was having a conversation with my friend @JoshIvy about work and ministry and our relationships with God. Josh is a passionate follower of Jesus and carries with him intensity when he speaks about honoring God.
As we talked he shared an interesting concept that I wanted to bring to you. Let’s start with a question – “What happens when you serve?” You can take the question to mean what do you physically do, or you can apply it to the emotional, mental or spiritual activity that occurs when you serve.
When we serve it (usually) results in some sort of praise, accolade or compliment. This is natural and is not a bad thing. It is appropriate that people who are served by you would express something of gratitude. If you serve on a regular basis you might experience these moments more frequently than others.
Here is the key question – “What happens inside of you in these moments?” There is a term Josh used that applies so aptly to our journey of serving – it was the idea of Embezzling from God. If you are not clear on the concept of embezzlement it is basically the “misappropriation of resources placed in one’s trust.” You see we are stewards for God, and when God entrusts us with something we must handle it appropriately.
Embezzlement is most commonly thought of in the financial arena, so it might seem like a term a little out of place when talking about serving. However there is an entrustment God has given us that is far more valuable that money, and it is in play every time we serve. God has entrusted us with something of His glory. St. Irenaeus is credited with the quote, “The Glory of God is Man fully alive.” God has entrusted us with the ability to reflect and embody something of His glory.
There is a great danger as we serve; to subtly take from God’s glory instead of directing it all back to Him. When we make serving about ourselves we are embezzling God’s glory. When we serve to impress someone we embezzle the glory of God. That does not mean we reject compliments or the reality that people appreciate our service. This speaks to our hearts stance as we serve, being not just willing but prepared to point to and celebrate God as the reason we serve.
The thing about embezzling is it usually involves skimming. People do not usually embezzle large chunks, because that becomes obvious and noticeable. Those who have become accustomed to embezzling skim a little off the top, as to make it unnoticeable to anyone else. This applies fully when considering the danger of embezzling the glory of God.
I would venture to say you do not run into people wearing a t-shirt that says, “It is all about me.” Notice the nuance here – it is a matter of introspection to figure out if we are skimming off the top when it comes to God’s glory. God has placed us on this earth for a number of reasons, and among them perhaps there is no greater reason than to steward His glory well and reflect it completely back to Him.