Today I read Mosiah 2:17 – that famous scripture mastery verse on service – in a different way than I’ve always read it before –
15 Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.
16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
The way this verse is usually taught is
SERVICE TO OTHERS = SERVICE TO GOD.
Therefore, if you want to serve God then a great way to do that is to serve people. Serving others is a way to serve God.
But, looking more closely at the wording of the verse, I noticed the word “only” seemed out of place. I wondered if it was just an odd Book of Mormon-ism, but when I reviewed the sermon I don’t think it’s out of place at all. When you serve others, you are “only” in the service of your God. Nothing more.
Notice in verse 15, after Benjamin has explained all the things he has done for the people, he says he doesn’t do this to boast. He can’t boast. And why not? Because anything he did for others was just in the service of God. And can we ever repay God?
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
We can never repay God. We will always be unprofitable servants. So, if everything we do for others is really in the service of God, and we can never be profitable servants, then we can never have anything to boast of!
So, when Mosiah 2:17 says, “learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” I think he is actually trying to teach the people not to boast. You can’t have power over someone because you have done them favors. You can’t require the people to do things for you because you have served as their king.
Anyway, as always, these are just some raw thoughts. I think there’s something worth working out sometime.
So, over and over in King Benjamin’s sermon, he reminds us that we are nothing and never have anything to boast of. And, serving others, no matter how much we do, is never anything to boast of.