Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Jesus now ends His challenge to the Twelve prior to their being sent on their first short term mission trip. Wanting them safe, protected, and well cared for, He gave principles which apply to how all believers should always treat one another.
Christ here emphasizes that we believers are to serve one another. This caring of Christians for each other was a major reason we won the Roman Empire. We not only astounded unbelievers by our kindnesses to them. We wowed them by our goodness to each other. They were often dumbfounded at how much the Christians loved each other. Oh that believers could regain this reputation again.
Our divisive disharmony has brought ill repute on the Savior’s cause. In recent months, through interacting closely with unbelievers in our Christianity 101 class, and due to much reading and pondering of the state of USA churches, I have developed a deep sense of grief over the way our failures have hindered Christ’s work. We should be jealous for Jesus. He deserves better than how we’ve lived.
Remember the elemental teaching of our faith. Believers, love one another. Master said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (JN 13:35). Receive each other kindly. Welcome, support, help, care, show hospitality, say kind words, offer helpful gestures, pray for one another.
We rightly grieve over sins of unbelievers in our land. Let us also lament our sins, especially our failure to love each other so remarkably that the world’s attention is arrested. For too long we have looked outside ourselves for solutions to our USA woes. To find what’s really wrong we need to turn our focus inside.
Matt. 10:42c “. . .in the name of a disciple,. . .”
In other words, motive matters. Each kind deed has an outside and inside, a part people see, a part only God can see. The latter is intent, a detail significant to God. What we do is important, why we do it is too. Actions and motives matter.
We are to bless prophets because they are prophets. We serve the righteous because they are righteous. We are to help little ones because they are disciples, followers of Jesus. In each case, the correct motive deals in some way with Christ and His cause. Our strongest motive must ever be Jesus, His work, His reputation. He must be the ultimate object of affection behind the visible object of affection.
We help not merely due to politeness, ordinary friendliness, or kindred, nor because the recipients are famous, learned, witty, or familiar, but because they belong to Jesus. Receiving them reflects honor on Him, and acknowledges in and of itself an appreciation for the Master they stand for, the Savior they represent.
Through kindnesses we in essence say, “I am not a prophet, but Jesus needs public speakers, and I will help those who are. I may never be a prominent, public figure of holiness, but I and the Church at large owe those who are. I want to help them stay strong. I want to bless, to touch, Jesus, but He is not physically present. Therefore I will help Him by ministering to the little ones He loves so dearly.”
This “for Jesus” aspect of kindness takes the drudgery out of our helping others. Serving them is thereby kept from ever becoming dreary and weary.
A soldier in winter heard a beggar dressed in rags pleading for alms. Having no money, the soldier used his sword to cut his own cloak in half, and gave one portion to the beggar. That night in a dream the soldier saw Jesus sitting on a throne, surrounded by the multitudes of Heaven. As the soldier gazed more intently, he realized Jesus was wearing his half-cloak. The concept is not fanciful. It is truth, undercuts boredom, eliminates any thought of kindness being mundane.
In Africa the missionary Moffat approached a hostile village near nightfall. He feared to travel farther due to lions, but the villagers were not receiving him kindly. He was about to give up hope when a lady brought him wood for a fire, milk and water to drink, and meat to eat. When the missionary asked why she had helped him when no one else would, she replied, “I love Him whose servant you are.” Jesus is pleased when He sees desire for Him in the deed done for others.
Matt. 10:42d “. . .verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”
At first glance, it seems odd to have a passage saying “for Jesus” should be our motive followed by a phrase presenting “for reward” as an acceptable motive. We must somehow reconcile and implement two seemingly contradictory motives.
Reasonable, God-intended self-interest is not selfishness. God created us in a way for it to be natural and okay to care for ourselves. Our survival instinct is normal. We care for others because they are valuable, made in God’s image. We too are made in His image and valuable. Nothing is wrong with caring for us, as long as we don’t slip into the snare of neglecting to love God first, others second.
By telling us He rewards service done to others on His behalf, God loudly and clearly says we will never be losers by such kindness. Jesus will not let us think for even one second we could ever be better to Him and others than He will be to us. We can never love God and others more than He loves us. When it comes to this matter of kindness, God will never be outdone.
The fact that God rewards is proof He wants to be pleased. It confirms He is personal, loving, gracious, interested in us, and involved in our lives. If we did not know this about God, people would rather flee from God than come to Him.
The only living God, gracious Jesus, wants it known, no sacrifice made for Him or for others on His behalf is ever in vain. God never underpays anyone. His wages are huge, yielding rewards present and future, in this world and the one to come. Full reward may be deferred till the resurrection, but will never be lost.
In the vast economy of God’s physical universe, nothing is ever lost, no burst of energy, no particle of matter. Thus, be not surprised the same is true of His moral universe. No sin is unpunished, no kindness unrewarded. Whatever Midas touched, turned to gold. Whatever believers kindly touch, turns to reward.
Our primary motive in kindness is “for Jesus.” That is the driving, compelling intent. But as a gift, as an added bonus, as an encouragement to cheer us on our way, the Lord tells us the flat-out truth. He will reward our kindnesses.
A proper mixing of these two motives helped John Calvin through a most troubling episode. When the ungrateful citizens of Geneva banished him for preaching God’s truth, the mighty servant of God responded to the disappointing news, “If I had merely served man, this would have been a poor recompense. But it is my happiness that I have served Him who never fails to reward His servants.”
Calvin’s first thought was “for Jesus.” The preacher had not served merely man. His consolation was in knowing the One he served never fails to reward.