If we obey in order to attain heaven, we are nothing but mercenaries; bounty hunters collecting our reward. If we obey God only to avoid punishment and hell, we are nothing but fearful slaves. God wants us to be loving children, with whom He can share His life and who are willing to share His love.
Christians have no problem believing about themselves: “if Christ came to my home, I would honor and welcome him.” And no doubt would do it knowing that the Lord does so much more for us, He is powerful and saving, and to serve Him in the end is to my benefit.
But what if Christ comes to our house, and it was obvious that he was powerless – homeless, hungry, terminally ill, crippled, begging, or suffering from a debilitating disease like MS?
Would I be so eager to minister to Him? Would I be eager to serve and minister to one who was weak, blind, lame, less powerful than I am? Would I gladly give my time and effort to one who is dependent on me and will take more of my time and energy away from me?
That is what Christ asks us to do – to the least of His brothers and sisters. If Christ comes to me and is debilitated, will I love him and be awed by him? Will I worship Him as king? If he is not beautiful to look at, but is repulsive, would I embrace Him? (Isaiah 53)
If there is no obvious chance of reward, would I be so eager to serve Jesus?
I think about the strange story of Balaam from Numbers 22-24. Balak offers Balaam a huge sum of money to consult with God and then to curse the Israelites. God tells Balaam to go ahead and do what Balak requests, but then along the way God sends His angel to confront Balaam and is angry with Balaam. The angel of the Lord speaks to Balaam through his donkey. The story is strange because God told Balaam to go with Balak but then is angry with Balaam for going and threatens to kill Balaam.
Why is God angry with Balaam for doing what God told Balaam to do? I think it has to do with Balak’s offer of a huge sum of money to Balaam. Balaam is told by God, go with Balak. Balaam is no doubt thinking, this is great, not only will I do what God wants but I’m going to get rich for doing it! But God confronts Balaam in his thinking – you are to go with Balak, and you are to tell him what I say to you, but you have mixed motives, you want the money. God is warning Balaam, don’t do my will in order to get rich. As it turns out Balaam does obey God. Balaam goes and tells Balak what God has said. This angers Balak because its not what he wants to hear; in the end Balak refuses to pay Balaam a penny.
Balaam does what God wants and speaks exactly what God tells him to speak. Balaam actually did what Balak wanted him to do, but Balak is not happy with Balaam for speaking God’s word, rather than saying what Balak wanted him to say and was paying him to say. Balaam gets nothing for his efforts, though he did God’s will. There is no reward for him.
So each Christian must ask him or her self: Am I so willing to obey God even if I get nothing in return? Am I so willing to love Christ even if He comes to me weak, powerless, released from prison, mentally retarded, downtrodden, disease ridden, begging for money or disabled by MS?