Since I couldn’t sleep last night thanks (I think) to a barista who slipped me a two-shot mickey in my iced mocha, I decided I’d get into the Bible. My brain wouldn’t turn off. I’d already caught up on all the Facebook news and photos.
I read Matthew 6, which, it turns out, is all about rewards. In the first 6 verses, the word reward comes up 6 times. Jesus teaches about giving to the needy: Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matt. 6:1-4
The other passage says this: When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matthew 6: 5-6
I like the idea of a reward. I don’t think I’ve ever earned one, mostly because I haven’t had an opportunity to return a lost wallet or wandering puppy. Jesus’s economy talks about the reward for spiritual acts. Can I say I don’t think about these kinds of rewards? I do these things – praying and giving – regularly as part of the give-and-take of a loving relationship with Christ and His church. I never consider rewards for myself as part of the mix. I guess for me, the word reward means money or some other tangible bonus, like a free plane ticket.
Later on in this chapter, Jesus warns against storing up treasures “where moths eat them and rust destroys them and thieves break in and steal” (v.19). Then He explains that where our treasure is, the desires of our heart also live (v. 21). Huh. So God’s rewards don’t necessarily constitute material wealth, though scripture does mention He blesses His own. Jesus goes on to say that God provides our food and clothing; the Father knows our daily bread kind of needs.
What do rewards from the Father look like? Rewards, it seems, aren’t necessarily earthly possessions. Could it be more faith? More love, joy, and peace? Divine favor? Could it be greater discernment and wisdom? Maybe better communication and kindness in relationships? Scripture calls out children as evidence of God’s blessing. All of the above seem to me to instigate eternal benefits, rippling into the lives of others. Or is it all about the afterlife, the “mansions in glory” and jewels in our crowns?
What do you think?
Warning: This post written under the influence of one cup of coffee and 3 hours of sleep.