Do you ever get the thought that you’ve been good, steady and paid your dues and now God owes you some reward or at least some favor in return? Be careful. ♦
One day several years ago a friend of mine, a strong and productive Christian businessman, told me he thought it was time for the fruit of his labor to pay off and bring him a windfall of financial benefit he had watched so many others receive.
“It’s now my turn,” he said, with the implication that God was going to bless him with stock option riches for all the countless hours of service in the local church and diligent volunteer Christian youth work and mentoring he’d been doing for years apart from his busy day job in the Silicon Valley. One couldn’t argue with his tireless, good-service activity and wonderful intentions, but I do recall a tinge of internal alarm at the connection he was making to personal financial gain as a result of his charitable heart.
Something about it seemed off.
I recall thinking that if God worked that way, then every Goody Two-Shoes person would be getting rich. What a deal: join the church, do good deeds, serve the needy and get a financial windfall.
I didn’t think it worked that way, but I didn’t know enough to say anything to him.
What I’ve learned since then is that it’s not that good deeds do not ever yield a good reward; but rather it’s about our heart and mindset. In writing to the churches in Corinth and Galatia, the apostle Paul uses planting and harvest terminology in helping the early Christians manage their behavior, intentions and service to others:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. – Galatians 6:7-10
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6-9.
In essence, Paul is saying that ‘you get what you deserve’ both in the positive and negative sense. But if that’s the case, what’s wrong with expecting a nice reward coming our way?
Our Good Works Mindset
Our good works should flow out of the relationship with God and His Spirit. That is, all actions and giving of ourselves and our resources should come from a place of service to God, not just our fellow man. It’s an out-flowing of His Spirit in us. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24). Of course, if we’re really not walking with God, then we’ve got a different problem.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. – Psalm 1:1-6
We should have the following mindset involving our good deeds and actions:
- Generous – there should be no sense of holding back, rather a bountiful heart of generosity, giving more than even expected. If your life and money are not your own, then whose acts and money is it really?
- Deliberate – the gift/activity should be thoughtfully considered “in your heart,” not randomly offered but rather premeditated with purposeful design. If you pray for guidance, then trust your God-led inclinations.
- Freely Given – the act or gift should be cheerfully offered, not forced or coerced, “not reluctantly or under compulsion.” If you fully trust God and His Word, then the giving flows with joyful gratitude.
- Expectant – there is no wrong in anticipating God’s blessings and having an expectation of bounty and prosperity. Yet there should be no sense of entitlement. God does as He pleases. Also the reward may not be in this lifetime, but one to follow, in ways we cannot imagine.
My friend did have his ‘ship come in.’ But not as he expected. With the windfall came financial angst, job loss and transition, family strife and division, and even ministry impact setbacks. With course corrections over time he rebounded, remarried and reestablished himself in God-led, fruit-producing ministries.
Are you focused on a financial windfall (your ship coming in) or on God producing fruit through you?
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:10-11