August 8, 2021 update:
In-person worship services will be held on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. at Wesley. Saturday evening services will resume beginning September 11th. Masks are recommended. During this time, Pastor Craig will continue livestreaming a worship service at 9:00am on Sunday mornings on our Facebook page.
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Our Great Reward (Matthew 6:1-18)
Many of us are familiar with a story from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus teaches about piety. In the text, Jesus speaks not only about the importance of doing righteous deeds but also of doing them for the right reasons.
Apparently there were people, such as some Pharisees, who were giving alms to the poor, praying, and fasting in order to win approval and praise from others. Jesus labels these people as “hypocrites” because they were pretending to do righteous deeds for God, but were really just doing them to impress others. Rather than giving to the poor to bless God’s children; and rather than praying in order to commune with God; and rather than fasting as an act of sacrificial faith; they simply wanted others to place them on a “holiness pedestal”. Jesus says such people have already received their reward. They wanted praise from others and they got it.
The primary point of the text, then, is to be careful about practicing piety to please others rather than God. There will be no reward from God when such acts are done to impress other people and garner praise for one’s self. There is, however, another point we often overlook, perhaps because we are not sure what to make of it.
Jesus not only implies—but directly states—that God will reward people when they perform righteous deeds for the right reasons: “Your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” Some of us may struggle with this because we view receiving a reward as incompatible with genuine altruism. Shouldn’t a good deed be done simply because it’s the right thing to do? Is it right to expect a reward from God when we are obedient? After all, God has already given us so much—isn’t it selfish to expect a reward for doing what we ought to be doing regardless?
I think it’s important to note that Jesus does not say that receiving a reward ought to be our motive for giving, praying, and fasting. While Jesus makes it clear God will reward pious acts, he doesn’t say we ought to do them in order to receive a reward. We should do them out of our love for God and our desire to become the people God created us to be.
And what if that actually is the reward? We tend to associate “reward” with material blessings or good health and safety and the like; but, what if the reward is that God will use our obedience to shape us more into the likeness of Christ? What if the reward is that God will use us more powerfully to build his Kingdom on earth in mightier ways, due to our being faithful? What if the reward is the peace and joy that only comes when we are faithfully being conformed to the will and ways of God, the Father? What remarkable rewards indeed!
Be encouraged, Grace and Wesley. When we are faithful, Christ promises us God will indeed reward us. Let us continue, as churches, to be generous, prayerful, sacrificial bodies of believers. When we are faithful in such ways, God will reward us by transforming us more into his likeness each and every day.
Pastor Craig Luttrell