Friday, December 31, 2010
2011, A YEAR OF DIVINE REWARD Children of God Happy New Year, this is the message of God to Nigerians for this year 2011. A reward is a payment for good or evil, the biblical concept of reward was both ethical and religious. The covenant God made with Israel was evidence of God loves favour; it promised good things to Israel on the condition of their obedience to God’s commands. Disobedience was a violation of the covenant and would bring disaster and death. Deuteronomy 28 spells out the blessings that obedience would bring and also the national disasters that would come upon Israel if they did not observe what was right and good in the sight of the Lord. In the period of the wilderness wanderings, failure to obey on the part of the people and their leaders brought suffering and death. The history of the judges and the kings was written in terms of reward for faithfulness and punishment for sin and idolatry. Earthly victory and the national welfare depended on obedience and faithfulness to the Lord (Joshua 1:7-9). The pattern of reward and punishment was not always carried out. The Jews believed that God would be a merciful, forgiving God. Forgiveness involved the removal of the punishment for sin. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10, RSV). The writer of Ecclesiastes found that life did not work out so neatly and that the doctrine of retribution did not always apply in the span of an individual life. There is a somewhat cynical note when the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. Job’s friends take the position that his sickness is the result of some hidden sin. Job maintains his integrity, and for him the answer lies outside the pattern of strict reward for righteousness and punishment for evil. In the outcome Job is rewarded for his good life. In Jesus’ day Judaism had changed significantly. The legal system of the judges had been replaced with Roman law. But Judaism had no hesitation about recognizing the merit of good works and exhorting people to accumulate a store of merit on a basis of which God would bless them. The Pharisees believed that accurate and conscientious observance of the law would oblige God to recompense them for their performances. The individual who did much was to expect reward from God, while every transgression entailed its corresponding recompense for evil. What was not repaid in this life would be a part of a future reward. Reward was a significant part of Jesus’ teaching, especially in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The Beatitudes proclaimed that the blessing of God would come upon all people who exhibited certain moral characteristics (Matt. 5:1-12). The individual who acts to receive the praise of others shall receive that and nothing more, but the one whose motives call him to please God shall be rewarded by God (6:1, 4, 6, 18). However, Jesus sharply curbed this idea when he taught the parable of the laborers (20:1-16). Here each was paid the same amount no matter how long he had worked. Jesus calls us to work for motives higher than reward. In the discourse on the good shepherd, the hireling who only works for wages is contrasted with the shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11-14). The servant who had only done his duty deserves no reward (Luke 17:9-10). Beginning with Paul, the idea of reward, especially as it relates to salvation, is seen in a drastically different light. No longer is salvation considered to be the result of an individual having done more good than evil in life. Salvation is an act of divine favor that no one can earn (Romans 4:4-5). Salvation is not earned but given by a loving, beneficent God. The idea of reward does not disappear. Reward results from good done after salvation is attained. First Corinthians 3:8-14 teaches that the quality of a person’s works will be examined and rewarded but that salvation does not hinge upon good works. However, works do have an important place in one’s eternal destiny (Colossians 3:24). God is ready to reward every body this year according to your deeds. Once again Happy New Year.