Sunday, July 27, 2008

Looking For Reward in All the Wrong Places

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:1)

      I used to hear people who had been complimented or thanked for their Christian service, exclaim, “Oh, don’t thank me or the Lord won’t reward me!” This was the verse they used to justify their self-deprecation, as though any earthly recognition nullified all spiritual reward. But, personally, I think the message of the text is much more probing than mutual recognition. It’s a question of motive,  it would seem to me. Whether it is giving (v.1), praying (v.16), or any other Christian activity, the operative words of this admonition are: “…before men, to be seen of them.”   

    When recognition of our service to God by peers is of more consequence to us than any future reward our Heavenly Father may have for us, our problem is two-fold: an overabundance of ego, and a lack of real, biblical faith. We soon learn as children that praise can give us warm feelings of acceptance—even superiority. Ideally, this childhood need for praise gradually matures into simple pleasure that is nice, but not necessary. Such a Christian, the apostle says, is content to have “rejoicing in himself alone” (Gal.6:4).

    And in the question of faith, to anticipate the smile of a God one cannot see would require a great deal of it. But is that not the very definition of faith? Not only believing that God “is,” but that He also is “a “rewarder?” 

   None of us is exempt from these cravings for recognition from time to time; nor should it be withheld when it is rightfully called for. But we should never forget, the praise of this world is fickle, at best, and vain, in many instances. Even the praise of our Christian brothers and sisters is not always rightfully placed or impartial.

  Therefore, our goal should be to find contentment (and, yes, those warm feelings of acceptance) in the fact that our Heavenly Father “which seeth in secret shall reward [us] openly.” He is the One keeping the books and tallying the score…so forget the grandstands! 

                        What would you do for God, if someone else got the credit? — Unknown                     

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