billgaither.jpg This week in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, I’ve selected an entry from Bill Gaither, “The Longer I Serve Him.” Bill Gaither turns 72 this year, and may be chairman of the are-they-still-at-it club. When he turned 60, they roasted him, with evident love in the room. He’s written tons of songs and released numerous albums over more than 50 years; in 2004, Rolling Stone named him one of the top 50 richest musicians. Most of his songs represent a certain stripe of “down home” Christianity that in many ways is the staple of a popular era that’s passing away. But it’s also part of the era and the stripe that I remember from my youth.

I’ll admit it, I even like some of his songs… though whether it’s nostalgic appreciation or something else, I couldn’t say for certain. This song, however, has a line or presents an idea that has come to irritate me… the notion that loving God more earns more love in return from him. I’ll grant that loving God more may allow one to receive more of his love in return, but I just feel the need to point out that there’s no actual difference in the amount of love that God has for us based on anything we might do or feel toward him. The rest of the song lyrics sound a bit like an idyllic tiptoeing through the tulips, but this is naturally the sentiment of the era and culture from which the song sprang. For the record, I don’t think that Bill Gaither is unclear about earning God’s love — but in my mind, the song lyrics are. I find I’m hard-pressed to call the song bad, but I don’t think it’s his finest moment.

The Longer I Serve Him

Since I started for the Kingdom,
Since my life He controls,
Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
The longer I serve Him,
The sweeter He grows.

The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him, more love He bestows;
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

Ev’ry need He is supplying,
Plenteous grace He bestows;
Ev’ry day my way gets brighter,
The longer I serve Him,
The sweeter He grows.


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