In doing this they follow the pattern set by the Lord Jesus Christ.
“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme example of service. He did not grasp onto the privileges that were rightfully His but in great humility He came to this earth to serve, ultimately giving His life as a sacrifice for the sins of others. The path that He set for all His followers was: service on earth then heavenly exaltation. For the believer, the life of service is not the cause of salvation but the fruit of salvation. However, there is a great danger, which the Lord Jesus highlights in the “Sermon on the mount”.
"Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 ESV).
The Lord Jesus knows the temptation that will be faced by His followers, the citizens of His kingdom. In acts of service there will frequently be the fleshly motivation of desiring to be seen or known by others, and to receive praise from them.
The Lord Jesus stated that good works will be seen by others.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).
There are examples in Scripture of believers whose good works were known to many, e.g., Dorcas (Acts 9:36). Widows could also be “well reported for good works” (1 Timothy 5:10).
The issue is not whether acts of service are known but what the motivation is for doing them.
Whose praise do you desire?
Are they done for earthly or heavenly praise? Is it with a desire to be recognised and rewarded by those on earth or by your Father in Heaven? Are they done for your glory or God’s glory? There is a very real danger that citizens of the Kingdom, believers, can do things with the wrong motive.
At the start of the COVID pandemic social media was flooded with “selfies” of people delivering food to the elderly, causing one person to write, “Took some food to my elderly neighbour today but forgot to take a photo, does it still count?”
Doing acts of service for the praise and reward of others is a very real temptation and is something that has serious consequences for the present and the future. There will be no reward from “your Father in heaven”.
The sin of doing anything for our glory, and not God’s, will grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit, quench His power in our lives, and hinder our fellowship with the Lord.
Conversely, all service performed with a sincere motive to glorify and honour the Lord will have a reward in the present as there will be a greater appreciation of Him as we serve in His name.
In the future, after the rapture of all believers, each of us will give an account of our lives and have an individual review of all service that has been done for Him.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
This will not be with a view to punishment for our sins. These have all been dealt with through the completed work of the Lord Jesus at the cross.
Rather, our own individual acts of service will be reviewed by the Lord, who alone knows the motivation for doing them and the use we have made of the resources that He gave us. Following examination, there will be reward or loss of reward. Of course, every believer will receive the great “reward” of seeing the Lord face to face, and this should motivate all service.
Service that was done with the wrong motive will be exposed. There will not be a loss of salvation but there will be a loss of reward.
“If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).
Scripture is not very specific about the nature of these future rewards. However, it is noticeably clear that when the Lord reviews our service there will be appropriate praise (Matthew 25:21) and rewards (Luke 22:29-30) from Him.
Considering the question: “What motivates me to serve?”, is helpful and necessary. It should be part of the believer’s regular spiritual health check.
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).