I have always felt the need to impress my superiors, be they managers, coaches, or bosses. Maybe it is part of my work ethic, or perhaps some deeper desire for approval. Either way, I always wanted to outperform my counterparts and establish myself as being useful—even irreplaceable—to the operation.

While I’m sure some employers appreciated that effort, that is an exhausting way to live. To see oneself in that light is like being reduced to a cog in the machinery (albeit an important one). If we are not careful, we can allow that mindset to infiltrate our approach to God.

When we rightfully think of God as our superior, we run the risk of thinking in human terms, to wit, that God only wants us around if we can perform at a high level. And then we can begin to feel that what we do is about impressing God or keeping Him happy.

But God doesn’t prefer the employee of the month over anyone else. In fact, God does not love us based on what we bring to the table, but simply because He chooses to love us. We do not need to prove ourselves.

Lance Witt addressed this concern in his book Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul. He wrote these words as if God were speaking to the reader:

“Rest in me; I am your shepherd. You don’t have to prove anything. You are not an employee, you are my child.”

Does that thought cause you to breathe a sigh of relief? We are not God’s employees, fighting to keep our job during a company downsizing. We are dearly beloved members of His family, grafted in by the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:17).

Am I saying that there is no need to work, or that we should be become lazy and reject the Great Commission? Absolutely not! We have been filled with spiritual gifts that God expects us to use. But we should not be motivated to serve by fear; we should have a desire to spread the word that the same God who saved sinners like us can save the sinners in your office, school, and neighborhood.

Working for God is a good thing. Jesus Himself modeled this, saying, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” I think we do a much better job serving when we relax and do it from a grateful heart, rather than from a fearful heart.