What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray to him?
There have always been men who estimate the value of a thing by its marketable and commercial qualities. "What will it profit me?" is the question that precedes every outlay and governs every action. These men have no eye for the spiritualities, the sentiments, the unuttered and unutterable glories of life. "How much will it fetch?" is their only method of determining the worth of a thing. That was the way the men of Job's time estimated the religion he professed. Religion to them was an investment. Job's acquaintances are not all dead yet. Blot out the notion that has possessed us, that, somehow, it will be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked hereafter, and how many of us would say the prayers we now say, or participate in the forms and rites of worship that now engage our attention? We are religious because we think it pays. We have a kind of ineradicable notion that it will pay still more in the life to come. So it comes that religion may be degraded into the most absolute selfishness, and the highest and holiest functions of life be turned into an investment that savours of mammondom.
I. WHAT IS RELIGION? WHAT DO WE MEAN BY SERVICE? Religion is not an observance, but a life; it is the conscious union of the soul with God, manifesting itself in conduct, and uplifting itself in speech. It is the carrying of the Divine principles of integrity, honesty, charity, love, peacefulness, and goodwill, into the daily rounds and daily duties of our common life. Serving God is the unforced obedience of love; the fulfilling of the will of God in every sphere of life to which it shall please God to call us; to work and act and think as those whose aim is to carry out the purposes of God. If you would know how to serve God, learn how to serve humanity by living for it in loving ministrations, and, if needs be, by dying for it. God is neither served nor flattered by words, or postures, or gesticulations, or the observance of days and times. He who serves his brother, Ms neighbour, even in the humblest spheres, and by the humblest means, serves God. "They also serve who only stand and wait."
II. WHAT WILL BE THE RESULT OF ALL THIS? What rewards does God offer? Should I be far wrong if I were to say, None? God has no system of conferring favours. He does not pay for service with Caesar's coin. So far as the world goes, religion pure and undefiled is not a stepping stone to its most valued things. It was once the stepping stone to a Cross. Serving God is not incompatible with worldly wealth; righteousness and religion need not be barriers in the way of worldly progress. But God does not pay men for service in that way. Let me point out what my conceptions of the results of serving God are.
1. It links us to the Infinite and the Eternal. It stamps this poor, imperfect life with the Divine insignia. It touches the sordid things of earth into sanctities and sacrednesses.
2. Add the inward peace and satisfaction which comes from the consciousness of being identified with the Infinite and the Eternal; the consciousness that we are fulfilling the highest end of our being, and that, come life, or come death, God is the strength of our life, and our portion forever. Some will ask, Does not God reward service with heaven? No; service is heaven, here and hereafter. Heaven will be the result of character — developed, ripened, sanctified to the service of God. There can be no heaven for the man who has not learned to do the will of God.
(W. J. Hocking.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?