Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4
Focus: Their reward
Reflection: Do something good and something good happens to you. What goes around comes around…sort of. Jesus was not a Taoist and did not practice dualism. It was not about Yin and Yang for him. At the same time, it did not mean he was unaware of the flow of goodness in human interaction. Just like he was aware of how evil spread, he was aware of goodness spread…and how it could turn bad.
When one person gives something to another, there is a gratitude debt of sorts. That gratitude does not have to come from the receiver of the given then, but it feels like it needs to come from someone. In order to give something, it requires a loss from the giver. Even if that loss is very minor, it leaves an empty spot. Gratitude fills that loss.
Of course people want to be appreciated for their giving. But, they do not have to be compensated for the loss. In fact, they could move toward not being compensated for it with praise and gratitude and it makes things even better.
OK, so imagine someone paid off your house. Cool. Now imaging that person posted a blog about about how they paid off your house, took out google ads promoting their blog about what they did, and then even created a clever series of television commercials about their generosity. How would you feel about their gift? Your house would still be paid off, but what would it mean? Was it because they really loved you or perhaps because you were useful in their self-promotion?
Jesus is busting people for doing the wrong thing and using the right thing in order to get it done. They’re milking the system for personal gain and using people along the way. The needy are objectified and oppressed by the kind of generosity the wealthy are using.
Jesus is upping the ante. In short he is saying that what these oppressors are doing is a grab for a little reward when something much larger could be theirs. When they look God in the eye and try to tell them what they did, God’s going to say, “You got what you deserved. You’re already even Steven.”
If we can delay our gratification when we are actually good to someone else, it legitimizes the act. And about that gratitude debt, well, God will make it all balance out in the end. So relax. The grab for an immediate congratulations demonstrates a lack of trust that God notices the good we do. Jesus is saying that we can do better.