When you hear someone say they will do something “for God” or “for Jesus,” it usually means one of two things. Either they (1) submit to his lordship or (2) they want to do him a favor. There’s a big difference between submitting to God as Lord and merely doing God a favor.
Are you more of a dog person or a cat person? I’m more of a dog person. In his book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them,” John Ortberg has some insightful wisdom on the difference between cats and dogs. While a dog tells his or her master, “You love me, feed me, shelter me, care for me — you must be God,” a cat tells his or her master, “You love me, feed me, shelter me, care for me — I must be God” (p. 117). Dogs know their masters.
Albert, my good friend from college who owns the house I’m renting a room in, also owns a dog named Cookie. Every morning, Cookie waits by my door (since Albert is away until Winter) and anticipates when I will wake up. When I open my door, she immediately runs to the back of the house so I can let her out for her to go potty (we all got in the habit of saying, “Cookie, go potty!”). And after she goes potty, she runs frantically back to the house and waits by her food bowl so I can feed her.
I’m usually a morning person, but it can get draining to have to let Cookie out and feed her first thing in the morning. At random times she whimpers at my door (I rarely let her in my room because she sheds). Whenever she whimpers, I either take her out back or refill her water bowl. After I do all that and return to my room, she sometimes has the nerve to come back and whimper at my door again. This can be very annoying when I’m busy, but sometimes I find out that she’s actually whimpering because she wants me to spend some time with her.
Cookie wants to spend time with me. She’s not selfish, although she loves when I take care of her and provide for her. She follows me all around the house. She’s happiest whenever I let her in my room. She loves it when we play tug-of-war with Albert’s socks (just kidding!). Whenever there’s a storm outside, she has the boldness to run into my room without being invited in because she’s scared and being with me is where she feels most secure.
She’s how we should be with God. Whenever cats do things for their masters, they’re merely doing them favors. You’ll rarely find an affectionate cat, and even when they appear to be affectionate towards you they’re only trying to use you as a scratching post. But dogs are loyal, friendly, and grateful to their masters. Whenever they obey, they know who’s boss (even when they’re obeying so they can be rewarded).
Serve God, but don’t do him any favors. Sometimes when Christians pray, we act like we’re trying to impress God, as if we could get him to say, “Woah, cool prayer!” This morning I read, “If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand?” (Job 35:7). Everything done for God is done by faith in God, dependent upon God’s enabling, and done with God getting the credit he deserves.