Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 20
Thesis: Selfishness is not measured by what one obtains for himself by his actions, but whether those actions are unjust and destructive to others.
Introduction: In our studies of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God we have seen that there are certain fundamental differences between God's Kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. This perception is driven by the claims of Jesus that there are certain realities that lead to "blessedness" and certain opposite realities that lead to "woefulness".
Within the context of of Jesus' presentation of these opposites, He declared that those who participate in the principles of the Kingdom of God should greatly rejoice "...for, behold, your reward is great in heaven...".
In the text before us this morning we, again, run into Jesus' declaration that "...your reward shall be great...".
Since we have used the "sun" and "black holes" as a fundamental illustration of the difference between God and His enemies, the question of "reward" begins to loom large for one reason: it seems to be the essence of evil to seek one's own benefit. If that is true, how can Jesus, with integrity, use "great reward" as a proper motivation for behavior. Does not "reward" automatically turn one "inward" so that "self" becomes the major issue? How can one be selflessly "loving" and yet seek "a great reward"?
In an attempt to answer this question, we are going to look at what Jesus said in this context of "a great reward" and why He used the concept to motivate His disciples in their actions.
February 24, 2008
- I. The Most Fundamental Issue: "T"heology (What God, Himself, Is Like).
- A. In the same breath that Jesus used to promise His disciples "a great reward", He declared that they would be "sons of the Most High".
- B. The declaration of such "sonship" had one meaning: they would be "like God".
- C. This must, therefore, mean that God pursues "a great reward" for Himself.
- II. The Next Most Fundamental Issue: The Nature of "Reward".
- A. Luke only uses the word three times in his Gospel and the most telling is the last: 10:7.
- 1. In this part of Luke's record He is dealing with Jesus' instructions to seventy of His disciples whom He sent to the places that He planned to visit.
- a. He did this to "plow the fields" by means of the pre-coming activities of the 70 so that when He came the people would have had time to consider Who He was and What His appearance meant.
- b. His instructions included His insistence that His disciples take advantage of the hospitality afforded them because, He said, "...the laborer is worthy of his hire" (the word translated "hire" is Luke's "reward" word).
- 2. Because of this text, we can assign a definition to Jesus' concept of "reward", or "hire": just recompense.
- a. The element of "justice" that is involved is the use of an "equivalent" that is seen as a legitimate substitute [note Matthew 20:13].
- 1) This means that the "just" recompense does not have to be "in kind".
- 2) But, for it to be "just" it does have to be able to bring the same result at the final level of "results".
- b. The element of "recompense" that is involved has to do with that most fundamental principle of creation known as cause/effect (in physics it is called Newton's Third Law of Motion: every action has an equal and opposite reaction).
- 1) It is here that "results" are the major issue: "recompense" is "reaction" to action taken.
- 2) As "reaction", "recompense" is what comes as the consequence.
- 3) This is Jesus' point: Loving one's enemies, doing good to those who hate, and lending to those who cannot repay are actions that create consequences.
- B. Jesus is not, therefore, addressing a fundamentally "gracious" issue, but a fundamentally "just" issue.
- 1. This does not mean that there is no "grace" in the picture, but its place in the picture is before the action, not after it.
- 2. This, then, means that Jesus is telling His disciples how the "justice of God" is going to play out in terms of their activities.
- 3. He says that it will be not only be "just" but "great".
- a. "Greatness" implies the issue of "more than expected".
- b. The issue of "more than expected" is involved because God is involved and His infinity raises the impact of actions to the "nth" degree.
- III. The Next Most Fundamental Issue: Motivation.
- A. It is indisputable that no action is ever taken without a reason (a "motive").
- B. It is indisputable that Jesus was using "a great reward" to "motivate" His disciples.
- 1. If He had said, "Love...do good...lend...for those actions will ultimately prove to be a total vanity", would His disciples have had any inclination to taken those actions?
- 2. A greater issue, however, is this: Does God ever take "vain" actions?
- a. This is why Jesus said that by taking certain actions, His disciples would be "sons of the Most High".
- b. Even God takes no actions without a reason.
- IV. The Final Issue: the Objective of the Motivation.
- A. Since no one, including God, ever takes "motive-less" actions, the issue will invariably come down to the question of the "what" that was sought (this is the "motive").
- B. Since no one, including God, ever escapes the cause/effect reality of actions leading to results, the question of which actions to take will always come up.
- C. Since no one, including God, ever escapes the results element in the cause/effect reality, there is no escape from the question of what those results will be to the one doing them.
- 1. It is required that we ask, "How will what I am going to do affect others?"
- 2. But it is inescapable that, unless we care about the answer to that question as a matter of personal concern, it makes no sense to ask it.
- a. Even the most "selfless" behavior is motivated by the issue of personal concern.
- b. And personal concern is inescapably focused at the person who is concerned.
- c. So there is no way to ever escape the question of whether the action I am contemplating will affect me and there is no way to ever escape the fact that how it is going to affect me is going to determine whether I do it, or not.
- 3. And it is inescapable that, unless "joy" is the issue, the answer will be wrong.
- a. Jesus' greatest "joy" was the production of "joy" in others.
- b. If He did not rejoice in the production of rejoicing in others, He would not have taken the actions He did.
- c. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus did what He did "for the joy that was to be His".
- D. Therefore we can conclude that Jesus was attempting to motivate His disciples to seek to bring "joy" to others (enemies is just the furthest reach of "others") by telling them that their own "joy" would be immeasureably enhanced by their actions.
- 1. This is not "selfishness"; it is inescapable "T"heological reality.
- 2. Seeking "Life" by imparting "Life" is what God is all about.