God Is Your RewardDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
In Jesus’ day there was no government funded welfare or Medicare system. Needy people were on their own and at the mercy of those with the means to help. Hebrew society was known for its generosity and its concern for the poor, reflected in the word “alms” which marries compassion and generosity.
Generosity is the secret of life for everyone, and it’s also a lifeline for the needy. But Jesus warns that generosity is also a minefield of conflicting interests. He uses the intriguing example of the left and right hands. There’s an old saying that “water always follows the line of least resistance” which means that if there’s a crack, water will find it and seep through. Self-interest is the crack in our generosity. Because of it, when we make alms with our left hand, our right hand will be thinking of the credit we’ll get from others, and when our right hand does the giving, our left hand will be calculating whether to give on the gross or adjusted net of our income. It makes you want to scream, “Is there no place that self-interest can’t seep?”
Jesus doesn’t condemn earthly rewards. It’s not born of the devil to receive public acclaim and a nice tax deduction. But what does Jesus mean by rewards from our heavenly Father? This reward is not like a bonus from our employer. It’s not like a refund from the government. It’s not like a rebate on a purchase. It’s the unique kind of reward you would expect to receive from a loving Father who knows all about you and who holds your care close to His own heart.
When I preach, I preach for my wife, Terri. Well, I preach for God also, but sometimes the order gets confused. When I meet her afterwards, I’m like a puppy eagerly wagging his tale and panting, “Did you like it? Did you like it?” Okay, I know I probably need psychological help, but I love her more than anyone in this world, and I want to please her. She is my reward. And it doesn’t really even matter what a few thousand others may think; if she pats me on the head and says, “Good boy!” I smile and sigh, and all is well with the world.
Your Heavenly Father is your reward (Heb. 11:6, Gen. 15:1). You may receive public acclaim, and you may get a nice tax deduction, but they won’t count nearly so much as His pat on the head and loving word, “Well done.” Public acclaim and federal deductions are like a snow cone on the Fourth of July—sweet but short-lived. But the reward of your heavenly Father touches your heart and endures forever. Practice making your Heavenly Father your audience.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What history do you have with generosity? What usually motivates you to give? What tends to keep you from giving more? If you could actually hear God speaking to you about generosity in your life, what do you think He might say to you?
PRAYER: Lord, I hold my left and my right hands before You as I pray. These hands, these amazing instruments of work and service and prayer, are under Your divine appointment to give and to care and to love. Like a graceful marionette, take control of my hands “to move at the impulse of Your love.” Amen.
Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.
Technology at Work
Will there be technology in heaven, or is technology simply for our use while we’re here on earth? What technology will we take to heaven? And what is technology, anyway? God placed humanity on the earth and gave us instructions to take care of it. Does that mean God had technology in mind right from the beginning? We are quick to judge technology and find it wanting, but what if technology can help us as we partner with God as co-creators and restorers on the earth? How would we steward technology differently if we thought it might actually have an impact on the kingdom of God? Our theme Technology at Work explores some of these questions and more.