We read:

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭17:24-25‬

“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬

“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:3‬

Q: Since God doesn’t need anything why does He request or demand service?

I’ve heard of someone else (an atheist) object to Christian doctrine on the grounds that they don’t understand why God would need/want anyone to serve Him.

  • 1
    I'm confused. Do you need to need something in order to want it? Those seem like two separate things to me. :/
    – Rajesh
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 21:33
  • The question is only in bold, the text after the question may be interchangeably used by an atheist.
    – Cork88
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 22:01
  • 4
    If ye love me keep my commandments. John 14:15. Why do you think the Father beget 'many sons' to 'bring them to glory' ? Hebrews 2:10. God is Love.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 1:22
  • 1
    Slightly related: Are there explicit statements in the New Testament about the purpose of life?
    – user50422
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 1:23
  • 1
    Worship, and Christianity in general, is for our benefit, not God's. Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


The question (said to be in the mouth of an atheist) lacks heart.

We love him (and thus only do we serve him) because he first loved us. [1 John 4:19.]

The question is, in reality, a refusal to serve God on the grounds that he (supposedly) does not 'need' service. But that is a servile attitude, not the response of a freeborn son, who loves the Father. Parables abound which demonstrate these opposite attitudes.

Since a Protestant response is invited, I am quoting Martin Luther.

Extract from 'The Great Fire of the Love of God for us'

Taken from Martin Luther, “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels (1521),” in Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 119-120.

“The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize Him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own.

This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ Himself, with His deeds and suffering, belongs to you. On this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself; indeed as if you were Christ Himself.

See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel, that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was ever able fully to express, and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at.

This is the great fire of the love of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content. This is what preaching the Christian faith means.

This is why such preaching is called gospel, which in German means a joyful, good, and comforting ‘message’; and this is why the apostles are called the ‘twelve messengers.’

Concerning this Isaiah 9:6 says, ‘To us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ If He is given to us, then He must be ours; and so we must also receive him as belonging to us.

And Romans 8:32, ‘How should God not give us all things with His Son?’ See, when you lay hold of Christ as a gift which is given you for your very own and have no doubt about it, you are a Christian.

Faith redeems you from sin, death, and hell and enables you to overcome all things. O no one can speak enough about this! It is a pity that this kind of preaching has been silenced in the world.

Now when you have Christ as the foundation and chief blessing of your salvation, then the other part follows: that you take Him as your example, giving yourself in service to your neighbor just as you see that Christ has given Himself for you.

See, there faith and love move forward, God’s commandment is fulfilled, and a person is happy and fearless to do and to suffer all things. Therefore make note of this, that Christ as a gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian. But Christ as an example exercises your works.

These do not make you a Christian. Actually they come forth from you because you have already been made a Christian. As widely as a gift differs from an example, so widely does faith differ from works, for faith possesses nothing of its own, only the deeds and life of Christ.

Works have something of your own in them, yet they should not belong to you but to your neighbor. So you see that the gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments which requires deeds of us, but a book of divine promises in which God promises, offers, and gives us all His possessions and benefits in Christ.”

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    "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19) and that love was manifest in the greatest gift imaginable - Immanuel, God with us. This inspires joyful and willing service, freely given. Thank you for that quote from Martin Luther.
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 6:49

We do not serve God because He needs it but because we need it. Servants is what we are. It is what we were created to be and what sin has destroyed in us:

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? - Luke 6:46

God created man, put him in the garden to dress it and keep it, gave him both provision and prohibition as sustenance, established his dominion over beast and bird, and created a counterpart specifically for his benefit. All this God called good and very good.

The temptation came to determine good and evil for himself, man swallowed it, and humanity was ruined. Our disposition became to serve ourselves rather than God, to serve anything else other than God:

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. - Romans 1:25

Notice that even in ruin we still serve. Our created purpose has not changed: We are servants and we cannot but serve. Enmity towards God has not cancelled our servitude but it has redirected it toward ruin. We serve all the wrong things. The only service that is actually beneficial for us, though, is service to the creator. He it is that made us servants and He it is that fulfills our servitude.

"Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything". This is spoken against religion, against man's briberous appeasement of deity which is nothing more than self-servitude robed in piety. True religion is service to God through service of neighbor not sacramentalism or imposed tradition:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. - James 1:27

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? - 1 John 4:20

When the description comes of God's only begotten becoming one of us we have the same language:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. - Philippians 2:6-8

The Son of God left his primary estate and was made flesh ... human flesh. He was made in the likeness of men. That is to say, He took upon himself the form of a servant. Humanity and servitude are synonymous in the economy of creation and when the Savior came, He came thus. To become a man he had to become a servant for that is what man is. To be a righteous man He served God.

"That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him" is not an addition to our estate it is a return. It is a correction of what went wrong. It is not a burden it is a blessing. It is life and fullness of joy to confess Jesus as Lord.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You're gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody - Bob Dylan "Gotta Serve Somebody"

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    "We do not serve God because He needs it but because we need it." How very true! But we come willingly and joyfully to serve and are blessed for it.
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 14:28
  • We are servants and we cannot but serve. Up-voted +1. A very fundamental point. Absolutely in agreement.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 17:20

1. It is possible to desire something that you do not need.

For example, a parent may desire their children to express love towards them (e.g. draw a picture, give them a hug etc.) but the parent does not need this expression of love either (a) to survive, or (b) to be personally fulfilled. This is because parents are not dependent on their children, rather it is the other way around. This is the simple way in which God desires service but does not need it.

2. 'Service' towards God is natural (innate) and good for humans.

Although not necessary, healthy children in a healthy relationship with their parents will offers some expressions of their love and affection naturally. Affection is hardwired into 'attachment relationships' and so it is natural and good for children to express love towards their parents (and vice versa). All that is left then is to consider the substance of 'service' towards God. There are two senses that I think are relevant.

3. Service as work is the essence of worship. In other words: Humans are made in God's image, which means by being most human, they are reflecting God's glory most clearly, which is the essence of worship.

In Genesis 1 we read that Humans are made in God's image, which means to be human is to reflect and represent God in and to creation. Then in Genesis 2, we read that God specifically tasks the Man with (a) 'working' the earth and (b) eating from the fruits of the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This then is the substance of what it means to reflect God's glory to creation - an act that gives him Joy, to work, caring for creation and to obey him. Interestingly the word for 'work in Genesis 2:15 is the same word translated worship in Exodus 20:5 in some translations. Therefore we realize that serving God is synonymous as working for him (although he does not need it) and worshipping him.

Worship then, is the essence of what God is asking us to do when he asks us to serve him. The verses you cite in acts which note that God doesn't need us to serve him, nevertheless recognize that the natural relation of creatures to a creator is worship even if their work isn't necessary. Therefore, we realize that on one level, when we work with our hands, when we serve God with our actions, we are actually participating in worship as humans.

4. Serving God may also simply mean relating to him in an appropriate manner. As in when Lords pledge their allegiance ('service') to their king.

I take it that this is the primary sense of service being used in the later two passages you cite. The emphasis in those passages is Christ's dominion and rule, and so it it seems natural to understand the service of peoples and people not to mean literal actions of service as much as putting themselves in submission to his authority. Acknowledging him as Lord, which would then by definition make us servants. This too, is worship. It too is not something 'needs' but as Lord it is natural and good for him to receive it. It is in this sense, because he made all life (Acts 17), that he is Lord and we his servants. It is a natural step from there to realize that servants... serve.

Natural, good, but not ontologically necessary.

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