Serving the god of Utility

Written by Carl Greene

June 7, 2023

Our microwave died. This appliance was not exactly an old family pet that was deeply loved. We simply inherited this preparer of instant foods when we purchased our home. But we came to need it. Because it served us.
As soon as the appliance stopped working, we unloaded it. We shed no tears, though we did impart a few harsh words about the timing of its demise. We are ready to move on. The microwave is easy enough to replace.
Notice the value of the microwave. When it served a purpose it had value, when it was no longer useful it became disposable. We often use the same measuring stick for ourselves. Our identity ends up being forged by the success of what we do or by how much we do.

The god of Utility

The god of Utility1 is a counterfeit god that we use to hold ourselves accountable to an unending standard of productivity. If we are not producing, we assume that our status is dropping. We use verses such as Colossians 3:23-24 as a proof text of earning our value “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” We miss the fact that we are serving the Lord Christ and not a god of Utility that wants us doing stuff all the time.

Serving the god of Utility leads us to think that everything relies on us. We end up assuming that our performance will make or break everything that we are involved in. The worship service. The children’s ministry. A family gathering. The profitability of our place of work.

While God invites us to partner with Him in His work in ways that we can shape and impact that work, the outcome does not ultimately rely on us. The god of Utility is the one who tells us the lie that the success or failure of everything is dependent on our performance. Not only that, but this ‘little g’ god also convinces us that success or failure is solely measured by metrics of achievement and accolades.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
—Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13 is often used as the commando call to perform in ways that prove how tough we are. Maybe even justifying our out-of-balance life. In reality though, this passage reminds us that everything in life does not depend on our performance.
There are two subtleties worth noticing. First, we rely on Jesus Christ while doing all things (verse 13). We are not going it alone and resolutely demonstrating our personal resolve. We are joining Jesus in His work.

Second, Philippians 4:13 has context. Right after talking about doing all things, Paul states “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble” (verse 14). Paul makes it clear that he was not going it alone, that God had placed people in his life to share or maybe more specifically, to fellowship in his trouble. We do not go it alone.

Remembering

We can get so wrapped up in the demands of life that we listen to the siren song of the god of Utility. We try to forge our identity based on how successfully we do too much. We convince ourselves that our calling in life is meant to be stretched thin and in isolation from others because we are so busy.

Thankfully, God offers us a weekly reminder to move us away from the god of Utility. God invites us into a weekly rhythm of rest in which we recognize our limits. God invites us to Sabbath where we need to trust Him. A full day where we are not measured by utility.

So, I am not a microwave. My value is not determined by being on call to work at all times. I have been given a value that is far greater than I can futilely try to earn. I am reminded of my value by resting in community because together, we multiply rest.

You May Also Like…

COM Award Nominations for 2024

The SDB Council on Ministry is collecting nominations for The David L. Taylor Pastor’s Heart Award and the Excellence...