I volunteer in a public library one night every week. I’ve spent most of the last ten years working in libraries, and I enjoy being able to use my experience and education. I have a lot of opportunities to do work that allows me to use my background. But sometimes I’m asked to tackle less challenging tasks: cutting shapes out of stiff paper, gluing felt pieces together or sorting pretzels into equal amounts.
I’m going to be honest. I don’t really enjoy those last tasks. I’d rather be putting books away or making sure the shelves are in order. I have a lot of training! It can seem like a waste to spend an hour cutting, gluing or sorting. But when I’m tempted to complain (even just to myself), I remember that I’m not the one who decides what work needs to be done. When I volunteered, I offered to serve in whatever ways the library staff need my help. Sometimes they need skilled help. But sometimes they need someone willing to do tasks that don’t seem to require much skill at all. I have to remember that when I try to serve based on what I want to do, I’m not really serving the library: I’m serving myself.
The same thing applies to serving God. If we accept that there is a God and that we ought to serve Him, we have to ask ourselves how He wants to be served. Unfortunately, humans have a long history of making up their minds what they want to do, and then calling it service to God. But God’s Word is clear: He doesn’t give us the choice of how we serve or when we serve. He is God, and He decides how and when He would like to be worshiped.
God gave instructions to the Israelites about what they were to do when they crossed over into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 12). He commanded that they were not to look at how the other nations served their gods in order to copy them (Deuteronomy:12:30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.). God does not want to be served in the ways other people once decided to serve their gods. He has the right to state how we are to serve Him.
Most people know that many of the holidays that are celebrated in the United States have origins that are far from Christian. Most people also explain those origins away, claiming that using these old holidays with a new emphasis is a form of victory over evil. I can’t see them that way. When I read the Bible and read how specific God was in explaining how the nation of Israel was to worship Him, I can’t believe that He is unconcerned with how we choose to serve Him, or that using the times and traditions of other religions is acceptable.
If we accept that God exists, and that we ought to serve Him, then we need to ask ourselves how we ought to serve. It’s important to think about our traditions with the Bible in mind. Why do we do the things we do? Are they practices that truly worship God? Or have they just been relabeled with His name? Are we serving God? Or are we serving ourselves?
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