Instant Reward Christian | Sermon on the Mount

Welcome to Real Life. “I want it now!” screams wealthy and spoiled Veruca Salt to her father in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I am amused by her over-the-top selfishness. I always feel an affinity with poor Charlie Bucket, not the pampered rich girl. 

Yet in reality, I own much of Veruca’s impatient self-focus. I live in a culture that thrives on instant gratification. I order fast food at a drive-through window. And if it’s not ready by the time I pull around the building, I’m annoyed. I earn “instant rewards” on groceries and gas and credit cards that I can cash in almost immediately. If I have to wait longer than a few moments for a screen to load on my computer, I need faster DSL or something! I want it and I want it now! 

This instant reward mentality unfortunately transfers to my spiritual life as well. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to do good works, give to the needy, pray, and fast.[1] O
ur Father in heaven will reward us. The problem is that his rewards are often private, unseen by man. And sometimes his rewards (though well worth the wait) are long in coming - maybe not until heaven. 

However, I’m impatient. I don't want to wait that long. I prefer the instant reward I get when people acknowledge my good works. If I shovel snow for my neighbor, I hope she’s looking out the window and sees that I did it. If I give to an organization, I want a thank you. If my gift is exceptional, I might even expect some media attention. If I pray and fast, I drop hints about it so others know how spiritual I am. Of course, I desire God’s reward. Yet, I also desire man’s praise. But according to Jesus, I can’t have both:
“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.”[2]
These are difficult words for someone who thrives on praise. Part of the enjoyment of giving and doing is the gratitude I receive for the act. If I buy my friend an expensive gift and she’s not appreciative, I’m hurt or even offended. (Certainly, it is important to show appreciation and cultivate a heart of gratitude. That's not the point.) The question is: What was my motivation? Did I buy the gift to impress my friend or to bless her?

Jesus words are also difficult for the writer in me. What do I say and what don’t I say, Lord? God has clearly encouraged me to pass on lessons he’s imparting to me. But, why do I write? Is it to serve, encourage, and edify others? Or is it to be seen and known and affirmed by others? If I’m motivated by the latter, I should expect no reward from my Father in heaven.

My heart regularly deceives me. Therefore, I need a regular heart check. Lord, why am I doing this? I can perform “acts of righteousness” for many reasons: to assuage guilt, to appease and please, to fulfill expectations, to win praise, to pay a debt, to garner notice, to feel better about myself, and on and on. How pure is my motive? The purest is love. I pray for you because I love you. Therefore, it doesn't matter if you know about it or not. (I might tell you, not to make me look holy, but to encourage you.)

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.[3]
Lord, you know my heart. God understands my often desperate need for approval. That’s why he is quick to remind me that I already have his approval (and his approval matters most). I am completely loved and accepted in Christ. In light of this, my heavenly Father encourages me to perform good deeds quietly, even secretly. He knows. He sees. He will reward every good work.[4] It may not be an instant reward, but it will last for all eternity.

Taking it further ...
  • "I Want it Now" with Veruca Salt. What brings out the "Veruca" in you?
  • Is there a gift you can give Jesus secretly this Christmas?
[1] This is not to earn our entrance into heaven. Eternal life is a gift received through faith, not works. (See Ephesians 2:4-10.)
[2] Matthew 6:1
[3] 1 Corinthians 13:3 NLT
[4] Matthew 6:4, 6, 18

Comments

  1. I love how you do this, simplifying scripture. And boy, do I understand this piece, more than I want to. Especially the part about writing. With so few readers, I have often wondered if I should give up and I think I would if the words stopped coming freely. I earnestly pray not to care but it's hard. Thank you, Peggi. Your posts often come at a much-needed time.

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  2. Thanks, Linnea. Please keep writing! I am confident that God will continue to expand your writing ministry and influence. Yet - one life touched is well worth the investment. You've touched many more than one!

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  3. Hi,
    I have nominated your blog for the blog of the year 2012. If you want to participate, please go to http://garciaandwalkon.me and follow the instructions on the blog of the year 2012 award.
    Have a great second Advent's Sunday.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow! Thanks, Patricia. I'm honored. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Peggi...I'm Steffy's sister. I appreciate this article. Thank you. I myself love to write. My hunger to share about the things of God runs deep in my soul.However, I do feel I need to keep in check and make sure of my motives behind what it is I have to say. I feel that it is my Love for the Truth of God's word. It is being so diluted and/or taking out of context. I took special note of this paragraph...
    Jesus words are also difficult for the writer in me. What do I say and what don’t I say, Lord? God has clearly encouraged me to pass on lessons he’s imparting to me. But, why do I write? Is it to serve, encourage, and edify others? Or is it to be seen and known and affirmed by others? If I’m motivated by the latter, I should expect no reward from my Father in heaven.

    Amen and Amen to that Peggi. Thank you for that.
    May God richly Bless you and your efforts to share the things of God.
    Sister in Christ, Sonya Reed

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    Replies
    1. Sonya, thanks so much for taking time to read my blog and comment. I'm sorry for this late reply. I thought I answered already!

      I didn't know you enjoyed writing. I'd love to check out some of the things you write.

      Thanks again for your encouraging comment, Sonya!

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  6. My Dear Friend,
    This article was written especially for me. I needed to read it this morning, and I am glad I did. I want go into a long story, but I can say your words hit home and they are making me re-examine an issue that I have been dealing with for the past two or three weeks.

    Thank you for writing this, and I thank God for using you to reach me. Keep up the good writing Lady. You are a wonderful asset to the kingdom of God.

    I love you, Peggi.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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  7. Hi Patricia,
    I'm glad the words hit home with you. I need a regular reminder myself. Thanks for taking time to write and encourage me, Patricia!

    ReplyDelete

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