Church Weekly
05 Mar 2023



Dear Members in Christ,                                                                                                                   

Service without love profiteth nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3)

The word “service” is defined in secular dictionaries as “the action of helping or doing work for someone.” An example of this kind of action is that of a servant who does service for his master, or of a person who does voluntary service in the form of charitable works. The world highly regards the person who serves selflessly. Throughout history, monarchies are known to reward with land, titles and awards, those who faithfully serve their royal masters. These titles and credentials are much sought after, for it brings with it recognition in high society and the world of business and enterprise. It bestows benefits to the recipient far beyond the mere honorific title. Often these recipients of the rewards are cited for the selfless way in which they give themselves for the welfare of others.

Now, what about Christian service? What does the Bible teach us about service towards God and for His people? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians about the underlying motive for service,     

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3

Can it be that the form of selfless sacrifice which the world admires, falls short of the teaching of God’s word? Let us examine this passage together. 

A. Selfless and sacrificial service is admirable, but what is its motive?

Remember that the context of 1 Corinthians 13 is about “agape”, the kind of unconditional love that exemplifies God’s love for us. In the earlier verse, he writes, “though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2. So, even if one seems to possess spiritual virtues, even a show of great faith that can move mountains, this person is nothing if he does not possess this quality of agape love. In an earlier verse, he expresses the same futility for those who claim to have great spiritual gifts of tongues, knowledge, and prophecies.    

The same idea holds for one’s service towards others. Even if a person is able to serve others and give of himself sacrificially, without love, his service profiteth nothing. The phrase “profiteth me nothing” is translated from a verb that is expressed in a passive voice, which means that the action has no advantage, no benefit, or usefulness to the person. Truly, this is what the Bible is trying to convey to us. The sacrificial giving of all worldly goods, or even the giving of one’s physical body, does not accrue any credit to the giver. It is as if all this giving away in sacrifice is in vain, it is futile.

Dearly beloved, let us understand the wisdom of the word of God. The Bible is not teaching against generosity in giving, nor is it against self-sacrifice. The Bible teaches us to be sacrificial in our dealings with others, for this is the example of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:4,5          

Or as the Apostle Paul says, that was the “Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. So what does this verse teach us?

B. The Bible teaches love as the motive for serving and giving

The biblical example of selfless giving and service is founded upon the basis of love. The well-known verse John 3:16 teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son. This is God’s pattern for us to follow, therefore when the Apostle Paul writes, “and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” God’s word teaches us about the motive for giving and service.

Any kind of service or giving, without the correct scriptural motive, is futile. It appears that some in the Corinthian church were serving and giving zealously, albeit for the wrong motives. We can easily understand some of the wrong motives for serving others or giving to others. For example, a person who gives generously to gain popularity. Or, one who appears to give sacrificially, but whose real purpose is to gain recognition. Or one who foolishly and mistakenly thinks that his or her service and giving will earn himself favour from God. All these are wrong motives. The Bible teaches that the true motive is the example that Christ Jesus has shown us, which is to give with a heart of love. To give of ourselves and to serve others with love as a motive, just as Christ had given Himself for us.

Dearly beloved, let us examine ourselves. Whatever our area of service, let love be our motive. Love towards God for His grace towards us. Love towards others, in wanting their faith strengthened, their spiritual lives edified in the things of God. We can serve with love towards God by giving ourselves for His service. Set aside our time and resource for God and the work of the Gospel. Another way is to strengthen the body of Christ by encouraging someone to grow in the faith, and that is showing love to others. Let our love for God and love for others guide us in greater zeal and service for our Lord Jesus and His body the church. May His word strengthen and encourage us. Amen.

In His Service,
Rev. Lim Seh Beng, Pastor