The deceive-ness in being rewarded
As we grow up, we are usually trained to expect rewards. This could be from our parents, relatives or even teachers. We are constantly being told that if we do well we would be rewarded and if we do not do good, we would not get the reward. These rewards take different forms – chocolates, TV time and so on. As we grow older, things change but we still search for reward in most things we do. At school, we long for our teachers to tell that we are doing well, and commend us in front of the class. At work, it could be that we look up to our bosses or superiors for commendations or even promotions at times. In ministry too, we might be searching for the same in the form of titles or recognition from senior members of the ministry. Looking closely at this, we see this as intrinsic to our existence, that we link good work to being rewarded. However, the Lord in Mathew 6 brings out a different perspective and this is something that we would need to meditate on.
The Lord in Mathew 6 highlights three main pillars; prayer (Mt 6:5-15), outreach (Mt 6:1-4) and fasting (Mt 6:16-18) and then moves on to further strengthen us to not worry (Mt 6:25-35), and to store treasures in heaven (Mt 6:19-24). As we read the first three passages (Mt 6:1-18), the Lord indicates that we behave contradictory to what is engrained in us. Jesus repeats it – repeatedly reminding us to do things in private so that the heavenly father who sees what we do in secret might reward us.
Before going further, let us reflect a little more on this message. We realize that the Lord is asking us not to boast on what we do, but rather to allow it to be recognized by our Father in heaven who would reward us. We also realize that the Lord is challenging us to stop seeking acceptance and rewards from men, but rather focus our energy to do the right thing and our Father will reward us in His time. Unfortunately, with the challenging world that we live in and the way we have been taught to react, this teaching seems contradictory to what we need to do; to achieve.
Would it then mean that the Lord does not want us to achieve or win? On the contrary, what it actually means is that the Lord is telling us that if we get our reward from men, then we would have already received our reward and hence there would be no need for a reward from the Lord. What this would also mean is that if we search for reward from others, we could fall into the trap of being manipulated by others in order to achieve the reward.
Let us take an example at trying to put this in perspective. As a student who would long for the acceptance (reward) of his/her teacher, he/she would try his/her best to achieve this acceptance (reward). At this level there does not appear to be much of a problem. However if we look at this a little closer we realize that after a period of time, the student would do whatever it takes to get this recognition, and sometimes he/she might choose certain unethical/unbiblical ways to achieve it. Another thing that could happen is that, despite his/her best efforts, he/she might not get the recognition he/she deserves, and hence might get depressed or develop hatred for the person who has been recognized instead. We see the same even at our workplaces with our colleagues that we might be ready to be manipulated in the name of a promotion or salary hike, and hence allow ourselves to be stressed, over worked etc.
Hence if we see the wider picture, the Lords teaching is in fact a big blessing for us, as it would help us to do our best for the Lord in whatever we do and prevent losing our selves to another person to achieve something.
Moving on, Jesus continues to teach us through Matthew 6 to not store up our treasures here on earth (Mt 6:19-24) which could be destroyed, rather store it up in heaven. This also means that although being rewarded on earth might bring momentary reward, let us train ourselves to store up our treasures in heaven. This is further confirmed by the Lord reminding us that we can’t serve two masters. (Lk 16:13) Finally, the verse closes with a reminder for us not to worry. Not to worry about anything here on earth and rather seek the Lord in everything we do and the Lord will add everything to us (Mt 6:25-35).
Let us bring all this together. Let us not be deceived, rather train ourselves to do everything for the Lord, and the Lord who sees this in our heart will reward us in His own time. In doing so the Lord will bless us with everything we need, and hence be able to lead lives that are more peaceful and grow in our journey with the Lord towards our heavenly goal.