Mandatory volunteering?

Definition of a volunteer: “a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.”

volunteer

Ezekiel 36:26 is a powerful and often-quoted verse “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

But recently I was struck by the next verse “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (NIV) But the ESV translation says, “cause you” instead of move you.

And what is the difference?

The Hebrew word translated “move” or “cause” in this verse (אֶתֵּן) is so general that both are acceptable translations. However, the dictionary definitions of move imply that something is stirred up inside of me and prompts me.  Indeed, we can look at when Jesus was filled with compassion.

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Matt 9:36 NKJV)

The Greek word translated “moved with compassion” means to be moved in the inward parts, such as heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys—you could call it a gut level reaction.

The word “cause” seems to be more emotionally neutral. The “cause” may be from an inspiring source or from a coercive source.

Once I had a job which included mandatory volunteering. This meant that part of my performance evaluation depended on my level of volunteering. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? Can anyone be forced to be a volunteer?

When we volunteer to serve the Lord and keep his decrees it is consent freely given. We surely do not think that God is giving us an ultimatum to do it…. or else his evaluation of us will fall! So, I like how the word “move” implies that the Spirit stirs something up inside of me, propelling me to act from a heart of flesh.  God loves my obedience, but it isn’t forced. Inside my new heart of flesh, the Spirit puts the wanting to please God.  The Spirit gives me new desires and the power to act on them.

So, both God’s Spirit and a demanding boss might cause me to volunteer. But only God’s Spirit and not the strict boss can move me to volunteer!

So, I conclude with a prayer, “Lord, may I grow better at seeing how beautiful your ways are, and learn to respond to you more and more wholeheartedly, not from fear of a bad evaluation, but through the power of your Spirit working inside of me.”

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