A heavenly reward program
How many rewards programs do you belong to? Coles, Woollies, frequent flyers…coffee cards. Sandra has so many coffee cards from different shops that she almost needs a whole wallet just to put the cards in. The question is do we really get the rewards that we are expecting through these loyalty programs or are they just another ploy to get you to spend more? But then, when you get money off your bill or a free coffee there is a sense of satisfaction that your commitment has finally paid off.
As a Christian I am also looking at a rewards program. In our modern western society, we have been encouraged to look for an instant gratification and deal with the consequences later. Very few of us save up for a house, or a car or a holiday – instead we put it on credit or borrow money. The consequences of this instant lifestyle are the pains of making repayments with interest. I am not criticising you for borrowing money, I am just saying that is human nature to look for rewards in the present rather than saving them up for a later time.
Luke 6:17-26 talks about blessings and woes. It’s the gospel of Luke’s version of the beatitudes in what is called ‘the sermon on the plain’. There are several similarities between this sermon and the one recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7 and reflects that this message was at the core of what Jesus taught and probably was spoken out on several occasions. One key difference is that in Matthews version, when Jesus says blessed are the poor and the hungry – he goes much deeper than material poverty and physical hunger. In Matthews version Jesus speaks of poverty ‘in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3) and a hunger ‘for righteousness’ (Matthew 5:6).
The message of the gospel is good news for the poor; the hungry; the distressed and the persecuted. Why? Because it starts in the heart of God who is loving, merciful, compassionate and forgiving. God’s love is not measured out according to social standing, wealth, reputation or physical attributes. God’s love is the same for everyone, whether we are young or old; sinner or saint; rich or poor. It’s just that not everyone acknowledges their need for God and because of their level of wealth, comfort or education may never recognise what God has to offer.
That’s not to say that we don’t want more than we already have. Most people would say that if they had more money, they would be more comfortable. By world standards our church community is wealthy. And the wealthy always have trouble making room for God. If you are comfortable with your life and your purpose then there is no room, need or desire for what Jesus is offering. The poor and the rejected, on the other hand, have nowhere else to look but up and in looking up, discover that God’s rewards program is better and more enduring than anything the world can offer.
So, it’s good news for the poor (in spirit), and when we accept this as good news it is hard not to tell others about it. When we discover the grace of God it becomes the motivation for how we live each day. The problem is, the world has always rejected the gospel because it shines light on people’s sinfulness. Christ’s goodness shining through your life makes other’s badness obvious and that makes them uncomfortable, so they push back, reject and ridicule, so that they can go on turning a blind eye to cycle of sin that they have perpetuated in my life. It’s easy to take such rejection personally, but in reality, it’s God they are rejecting. So, Jesus says, you’re blessed if people reject and persecute for his name sake (Luke 6:22) and that you will not only have great rewards in heaven (Luke 6:23), but you will know the presence and the comfort of God each day.