July 11, 2021

The Lure of Reward

Pastor KJ Kim

Jeremiah 20: 7-13

In today’s passage, we see another superhero-character, the prophet Jeremiah. “Violence and destruction!” That was the message God had given him to proclaim, although there was no evidence that the message seemed true.

Jeremiah was the person God had sent to wake them up, but no one was listening. Rather, Jeremiah had become a local joke. Beggars looked down on him. Children mocked him while their parents chuckled. Even his friends had deserted him.

If we were Jeremiah, what would we expect of God? “O God, I am doing exactly what you have asked me to do, and I am saying exactly what you have told me to say. Look! No one is listening.”

I suppose one enticement that works on Jeremiah is the lure of effectiveness. It is the wish to be effective, and I do not know anyone who is immune to it.

Of course, when Jeremiah proclaimed God’s message to Judah, he wished he could be respected and recognized by all people. However, he was the one who was always being shown the way out, and a laughingstock.

The most common enticement for most believers I can think of is the lure of reward—that those who are faithful to God will be protected, rescued, defended, and upheld. It is a tempting idea; however, what the Scripture tells us over and over again is that the only reward for doing God’s work is doing God’s work. Period.

In addition, if we do God’s work really well we are likely to get ourselves killed. We all know what happened to God’s beloved son, Jesus. This may be what reward looks like in the upside-down kingdom of God as Jesus put himself on the cross. And, so far as I know, no one has ever liked putting oneself on the cross.

We may be seduced and enticed by the idea that our faith should win us respect, influence, or protection. As far as I know, the Scripture did not ever tell us about that kind of reward.

There was no reward. There may be still no reward. But, there is only the self-sacrificing love of God, who raises us from the dead over and over again.

This is the unending and unchanging reward that we keep longing for.

Amen.