Category: What does the Bible say about a Christian’s responsibility?


In the New Testament, the word usually translated “serve” is the Greek word diakoneo, which literally means “through the dirt.” It refers to an attendant, a waiter, or one who ministers to another. From this word we get the English word “deacon.” We first see the word “deacon” used this way in the book of Acts. “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2). The men who were giving themselves to feeding the flock by preaching and teaching realized that it wasn’t right for them to leave those activities to wait tables, so they found some other men who were willing to serve, and put them in place to minister to the church’s physical needs while the elders or pastors ministered to their spiritual needs. It was a better use of the resources they were given, and a better use of everyone’s gifts. It also got more people involved in serving and helping one another.

Today, for the biblical church, these roles are essentially the same. Elders and pastors are to “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2), and deacons are to be appointed to take care of everything else. In a modern church, this might include taking on administrative or organizational tasks, ushering, being responsible for building maintenance, or volunteering to be the church treasurer. It depends on the need and the gifts of the available men.

The responsibilities of a deacon are not clearly listed or outlined; they are assumed to be everything that does not include the duties of an elder or pastor, which is to preach, teach, and exhort. But qualifications for a deacon’s character are clearly outlined in Scripture. They are to be blameless, the husband of one wife, a good household manager, respectable, honest, not addicted to alcohol and not greedy (1 Timothy 3:8-12). According to the Word, the office of deacon is an honor and a blessing. “For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).

Without question the greatest reason that we live for God is our unwavering belief in the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is through His resurrection from the grave that we have hope and the promise of life eternal with him. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the apostle Paul explains that, because of these promises of a future resurrection and of living eternally in the kingdom, believers have not only the motivation but also eternal responsibilities for our lives here on earth.

The apostle Paul touches on such responsibilities in his concluding statement in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. He declares that, if we really believe and if we are truly thankful that our resurrection is sure, we should “therefore” demonstrate our assurance and our thankfulness by “standing firm, letting nothing move us” and “always giving ourselves full to the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). This, then, is the believer’s responsibility: to stand firm in the faith and give himself completely to the Lord.

The Greek for “standing firm” is hedraios, which literally refers to “being seated, being settled and firmly situated.” The Greek for “letting nothing move you” is ametakinetos, and it carries the same basic idea but with more intensity. It means “being totally immobile and motionless,” indicating that we should not even budge an inch from His will. And with our being totally within the will of God, we are to be “always giving ourselves to the work of the Lord,” being careful not to be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

Why did Paul give us this warning? Simply because, if our confident hope in the resurrection wavers, we are sure to abandon ourselves to the ways and standards of the world. Therefore, if there are no eternal ramifications or consequences of what we do in this life, the motivation for selfless service and holy living is gone. In other words, our eternal responsibilities are abandoned.

Conversely, when our hope in the resurrection is clear and certain, we will have great motivation to be attending to the responsibility we have to “always giving ourselves to the work of the Lord.” The Greek for this phrase carries the idea of exceeding the requirements, of overflowing or overdoing. A good example of this is found in Ephesians 1:7-8 where the word is used of God having “lavished” upon us the riches of His grace. Because God has so abundantly provided for us who deserve nothing from Him, we should determine to give of ourselves abundantly in service to Him, to whom we owe everything.

The Bible teaches us that our responsibility as believers is to work uncompromisingly as the Lord has gifted us and leads us in this life. We must fully understand that until the Lord returns there are souls to reach and ministries of every sort to be performed. We are responsible for our money, time, energy, talents, gifts, bodies, minds, and spirits, and we should invest in nothing that does not in some way contribute to the work of the Lord. James tells us, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).

Our work for the Lord, if it is truly for Him and done in His power, cannot fail to accomplish what He wants accomplished. Every good work believers do has eternal benefits that the Lord Himself guarantees. Jesus tells us, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

Simply put, our responsibility lies in working for the Lord, whether it is in “looking after orphans or widows in distress” (James 1:27), giving to the hungry, the naked, visiting those in prison (see Matthew 25:35-36), serving in our workplace (see Colossians 3:22), or doing whatever we do (Colossians 3:23). And our motivation is that we have God’s own promise that our work “is not in vain” in the Lord “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:24).