Motives can be a hard to discern, even in ourselves, but they matter; they really do! Last week I had the opportunity to care for a homeless person, finding housing for her, providing some resources. As it turned out, she took advantage of my kindness, as she has done to others, I found out. My motive for helping was revealed in my response. Was I irritated at her? Did I feel resentment? No. Why? Because what I did, I did for Jesus’ sake, knowing that was His desire for me. If I had done it with the hope of appreciation, I might have become angry.
Christian, our eternal rewards will result mostly from the ‘why’ that laid behind the ‘what’ in our lives. There is a passage in First Corinthians that says this. “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.“ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, NIV)
Those words are both cautionary and full of promise at the same time. What we do ‘for Christ’ will be judged by the Lord, subjected to a test of purity, as we stand before His Throne. In His gaze, those ‘ministries’ we did to serve our own reputation and to enhance our own status will disappear in a puff of smoke! Sermons preached for any reason other than to lift up Christ, no matter how doctrinally sound, will be erased. Charitable gifts given for recognition – gone from the eternal record. Songs sung for applause – silenced! But, those things done because we love Jesus will glisten like gems for all eternity.
Jesus told His disciples not to emulate the religious leaders of His time who were careful to protect their reputation as ‘holy men.’ They wore their religious symbols prominently, took care not to rub shoulders with ‘sinners,’ made a show of their giving at the Temple, and prayed loud prayers in public. Pointing to them, He said “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.“ (Matthew 6:1, NIV) Much of what they did was good, but the rot of Self in their motivation robbed them of their reward. They got only what they really desired – the admiration of others.
Let me digress here for a moment. This does not mean that we cannot give appreciation to those who serve well. We should. Nor does it mean that we should never do anything “Christian” which attracts the attention of other people. Jesus teaches us that we are to be “the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV) Humble servants who do what they do – giving, sharing, loving, serving – in Christ’s Name with no thought of self, actually become lighthouses of hope in this dark world. We do well to thank them, too.
Faithfulness in service and devotion
comes from our hope in the One
who sees all, knows all, and forgets nothing.
Simply said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42, NIV) So, what will come of your life’s work, friend? Will there be diamonds or just dust? Will the gaze of Jesus, our Lord, reveal a heart of devotion or hypocrisy? We do well to pray for discernment of our own heart, guided by the Spirit, so that our best efforts will find rich reward.
The word from the Word is rich in promise. “Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten.” For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.
So two good things will happen—the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanksgiving to God. You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the wonderful grace of God shown through you.” (2 Corinthians 9:9-14, NLT)
Lord, may our lives be overflowing with generosity of spirit towards others as we serve You. Amen
Oh Lord You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
And when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
I want to take Your Word
And shine it all around
First help me just to live it Lord
And when I’m doing well
Help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You
Oh Lord please light the fire
That once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear
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