[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)

Our faith is qualified by our motives, and not only by our expectations. If I believe God will do what He promises, then, well enough, I have faith. But still behind that thought may be simply a desire for a personal reward, that God will bless me as He has promised. It may not be driven by an unselfish desire for God and for others.

For example, the Bible says:”Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). If I give with the expectation that I shall get, and that is the only motivation in my heart, then my faith is still lacking an essential element. It is still all about me and what I shall receive.

God is gracious and often we receive some element of blessing because of our faith, even when that faith is imperfect. But Christ still put the emphasis on our motive. Our faith is not merely belief in God and in His promises. It must reveal a change of heart, a new attitude, genuine love for God and compassion for others. If we give only so that we will receive, then we have not ventured out into the realm of real faith.

Christ emphasized motive even over the amount that is given. He said, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). The motive of rewarding another person’s faith in Christ brought the promise of a reward even if the gift was merely a cup of cold water. This is not to discount the fact that, generally speaking, the more loving and unselfish we are the further we will go for Christ, the more we shall endure for Him and others, and the more we will give for His cause.

So Christ always goes to the heart of the matter, and that is the condition of our hearts.  Moses interceded so deeply and personally for the people of Israel, asking God to forgive their sins, to the point that he prayed for his name to be blotted out of the book of God :”If you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (Exod. 32:32).*

Paul echoed the same sentiment as he prayed for his people Israel: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” (Rom. 9:3). God did not allow such sacrifices by Moses and Paul for their people. The Bible says, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them, for the redemption of his soul is costly…” (Psalm 49:7-8). Only Christ could die for the sins of others, and He died for the sins of the whole world, for the sins of all those who will trust in Him.

But still the sentiment is admirable and most Christ-like. People often expect great fan-fare and attention paid to them for giving that which cost them very little in personal discomfort or inconvenience. But the greater love is the one that is expressed toward those who cannot or will not say thank you, who cannot repay. Truly it is said that until we have such love for another person we have not truly lived.

And the greatest love is the love that Christ plants in our hearts for God by His Spirit, that wishes to do all we can, whatever we can, for Christ and for His cause in this world. Truly this is genuine life. Never feel sorry for someone who has a cause worth living and sacrificing for, and worth dying for. These are the only ones among us who truly live.

 

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*”The book that you have written” – some skeptics point out that this word is out of historical context for in the days of Moses books as we know them today had not yet been invented. But this original word sepher means a scroll or certificate, or a title deed. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians compiled books of writings on clay tablets in the third millennium B.C., long before the appearance of Abraham on the scene of history. The precise date of the invention of writing is unknown simply because the more common writing materials are of perishable material.

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