This morning, my two oldest sons (ages 5 and 3) began having a tiff. It had not yet translated into a full-blown war, and I wanted to squelch it while it was still in its primary stages. My boys love the computer and are enamored with every facet of it. So on top of the rebuke they received was a warning that if this back and forth continued there would be no computer privileges offered today.
Though that warning seemed to sink in rather quickly, what happened a short time later set another thought whirling into my mind. A little while after my rebuke, I was preparing to leave for the office. As I left I admonished my sons to be good and helpful for their mother today (as I do almost every morning), then my oldest son piped up with a statement akin to: “Because otherwise we will not get any computer time today.”
That statement stopped me in my tracks. I sat down for a few moments and spoke to my boys about the reasons we do things. I do not want my boys to be good so they can have privileges; I want my sons to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, because they love their mother, and because they love God; regardless of whether any reward comes of it.
As I was talking to my sons about this, the impact of my statements was drawing my mind into another train of thought. In the same manner that I do not want my sons’ actions to be based upon the rewards of good conduct, so also in a spiritual sense should my actions not be based upon what God is going to give me.
Many times we use as bait the rewards of God in our desire to see people obey him. However, even though God has promised the offered rewards to the faithful, it should not be our greed for those rewards that determines our actions. We (and with that I include myself) often make the choice of discipleship a question of which “rewards” one desires, the physical ones that last for a time or the spiritual ones that last for eternity.
My service to God should not be based upon who is offering the most goodies. It should not be determined by whether or not God is going to bless me with riches or poverty, whether he offers me recognition with physical honor or dishonor, whether he blesses me with health or hardship. My service to God should be predicated upon one question: “Is it the right thing to do?”
Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When I understand all that God through Jesus has done for me (Phi. 2:5-11); when I comprehend the lengths to which God has gone from the foundations of the world to see to it I have the opportunity to remove my sins and be pure and holy (Eph. 3:7-11); when I recognize the truth and goodness extended to me by God through his word for my benefit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Then the decision before me should not be based upon the rewards for obedience, but on whether I love God enough to put my trust in him; whether serving God is the right and just response for all that has been done on my behalf; whether God has earned my service and loyalty, not through his offered rewards, but by his wondrous deeds.
Sometimes we get too caught up in the greed-based observations of what the rewards will be for service to God. It does not mean that we should not look forward to those rewards, nor should we show a lack of appreciation for their proffering by the Creator. Nevertheless, the rewards received should be a by-product of faithful service, not the motivator for it.
As we live our lives in service to him, let us always keep our motivations in perspective. We serve him because we love him, because he has earned our service and loyalty with his actions, and because it is good and right in every respect. Additionally, let us be thankful for the rewards he has offered to his children; for though their offering is not the main thing, it is yet another example of the love and care that God has for his children and with thanksgiving we find pleasure and peace in those promises.