The Heartlessness of a Reward Mentality

by Ed Sandoval

What motivates our “Christian” action toward another?  Why do you and I do good works, serve, help, and give (time or money)?

I previously shared about the motivation of our spiritual walk with and toward Jesus (here), but what about our spiritual walk with others?   We cannot separate the two – they are one and the same walk.

Unfortunately, some who misunderstand the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament use the promise of future reward as their motivation for good works.  Whilst it’s accurate to say there is an incredible inheritance awaiting those in Christ (Ephesians 1:11), and that there is a reward for good works (1 Corinthians 3:14), to use that alone as motivation for doing good now is simply defective.

Because that is not what motivated Jesus.

John 13:3 tells us that Jesus knew the Father had put all things under him, that he was from the Father, and that he was returning to the Father.  There was no “I’m going to heal / set free / teach / raise from the dead / feed this person so that I’ll get a reward” in Jesus.

Rather, when Jesus heals the leper, he was moved with compassion (Mark 1:41).  When he challenged the rich young ruler and invited him to be his disciple, he was motivated by love (10:21).  Even in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells us that the Samaritan did the culturally unthinkable and helped the Jew because he had compassion.  In other words, with Jesus, compassion came before action.

When reward is our motivation and our “good” actions lack compassion, we are in danger of feeling the people we help are simply an object to get what we really want, and we become heartless.  Even worse, these actions produce the exact opposite of our goal of reward, because they will be burnt up as nothing when passed through the fire of God’s just and loving judgment (1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Matthew 7:21-23).

We are in desperate need of compassion.  I definitely am, maybe you are, and the Church is as well.  But it’s not something we can simply flip a switch and feel.  So how do we restore compassion in our hearts when we lack?

That is the topic for the next post.


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