Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Life seems easier when there's a formula for it. If you do A, you get B. The reality is that life isn't so cut and dried, and there are plenty of times where you can do A and instead get F or N or Z.

Lately I've heard one too many sermons that seem to have a formulaic undercurrent. If you do A for God, He'll give you B. If you show love to someone, they'll love you back. If you tithe, you'll receive financial blessing in return. And so on.

That would be great news if that were indeed true 100% of the time. But raise your hand if you've ever loved someone who didn't love you back. Know someone who's given sacrificially to the church and didn't receive an unexpected check in the mail the next week? How about someone who quit a job that had caused them to compromise their values and beliefs and who are still unemployed months later?

While I appreciate the encouragement that such sermons strive to give (after all, reward is a great motivator), I think that sometimes there is too much emphasis placed on earthly blessings as opposed to eternal blessings. Yes, God does reward those who love and serve and obey Him--but that does not mean that we'll always receive rewards here on Earth.

There are plenty of Christians around the world who live in poverty and don't know where their next meal is coming from. They love and serve and obey God and yet they continue to struggle to survive. That doesn't mean that God loves them any less, nor does it mean He is not faithful to them.

Read the list of men and women in the "Hall of Faith" chapter, Hebrews 11. While some did witness earthly reward, "Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:35b-40)

Many times God does reward our faithfulness with earthly blessings, sometimes in material/financial form, sometimes in less tangible ways such as peace or joy or comfort. And sometimes He instead chooses to withhold the blessings until we get to Heaven. There's no formula for that, at least none that I've discovered. We just have to have faith that the good we do here on Earth doesn't go unnoticed by a faithful and loving God.

I wish that some of these sermons I've heard lately put more emphasis on the eternal and less on earthly things. I'm sure it's hard for ministers to balance the two perspectives, and so often we want to deal more with the here and now rather than think about eternity. I'm not the one standing on the stage so it's easy for me to criticize. I guess the best thing for me to do is pray that we (including me) would not measure God's love for us or faithfulness to us by whether or not He rewards us in the way we expect.

1 comment:

Donna G said...

The whole formula and absolute truth thing just seems to me to be the opposite of what Jesus taught. Of course he did speak of truth but not without grace.

Things don't always work out....They just don't. If it did would we really need faith?