“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” Luke 17:7-10, NIV
We have only done our duty. It’s interesting that this scripture is in stark contrast to much of what we’ve talked about recently in popular Christianity: the rewards of serving God, or even the positive outcomes of difficult times in the life of the Christian. Whether overtly or imperceptibly, we often have a sense of entitlement in all sorts of ways.
Whether we consciously think it or not, our attitudes are often, “I went through this hard thing, so God you owe me.” After times of suffering, illness, or wandering, we want God to “pay up” for difficulties we’ve gone through, or at the very least, give us a break and let us “sit at the table” for a while.
Or maybe we want recognition from God after difficult service: overseas, outside our comfort zone, under difficult circumstances. As if even a person’s ministry puts God in the position of owing us, and God will surely reward our good acts with extra blessings. We should have an easier time in life, a less painful path paved for us, our grief given purpose, and our prayers answered on own timeline.
The problem is, this sense of entitlement robs us of our joy. Much like a child who insists on “the toy of the year” when their parents can’t afford it, or the Christmas bonus that becomes so expected, it becomes just the 53rd paycheck of the year.
In contrast, if we see ourselves as unworthy servants, just doing our duty, rewards are seen as that: actual rewards. Not that God doesn’t promise rewards. He does, often, but these are not necessarily the wealth and health that the “Jabezers” purport.
Perhaps the greatest reward for being obedient, for doing our duty, for recognizing our position as servants, for doing the right thing is becoming the right person. Being obedient is not to earn favor so God will give me what I want, so that He will provide for those who love Him, or for Him to necessarily find a place of fulfillment for each of those who are called to serve Him. The reward to obedience is first and foremost developing an obedient character.
I may not be entitled to an easy path or convenient answers, but I do have assurance that the Master is also my Father and my friend, and I can trust in His mystifying, unmerited, well-lavished love.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13-15 NIV
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This was a watershed of peace over my head.