Matthew 6:2-6 (ESV)
Years ago I heard a televangelist say that he wanted his rewards right now. I don't think he read the Bible much or he would have known that this is not God's pattern of reward. God looks eternally while man looks temporally. People should be looking for eternal rewards.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Let's look at the principle of the above verses. I have already received my reward for my gifts or prayers if I seek the praise of others. I suppose those gifts could also apply to acts of service. Thus, we always bring the crew who fixed the fellowship meal out to applaud their service. We are so afraid that failing to do so will mean that they stop feeding us. Do we really believe this is all the reward they want?
True servants do not need recognition. I say that even though I know it is hard to watch others receive recognition for things that weren't nearly as arduous as you have done. This is a problem with pride rather than looking for rewards for service or giving or even praying.
Many Christians should ask themselves: Will I continue to pray fervently even if no one other than God knows I am praying? Will I continue to give generously even if I know no one other than God knows I am giving? Will I serve behind the scenes when no one other than God knows I am serving?
I know how hard this is. I, too, would like to ask if I could sit at Jesus right hand. I would like to count myself among the venerated. I, too, would like to see thousands coming to my church, streaming my sermons and reading my blogs. All the while, they would tell me how great I am.
Truthfully, knowing this about myself makes me sick! How can I know that eternal rewards await me if I will simply walk in faithfulness without seeking the praise of others and desperately look for the praise of others at the same time? The ambivolence is confusing.
Spiritual things become very difficult when they are not done in the Spirit. Consistently giving (and serving) and praying privately without earthly recognition works against the flesh. The flesh demands rewards here and now. Maybe this is why the "God will make you healthy and wealthy" preachers fill their churches. They are appealing to the flesh. It is so much easier to do so.
Christian maturity requires that we examine ourselves. We ask the Lord to reveal where we have fallen short of His glory. It seems strange to find that our flaw surrounds our giving, serving and praying. We want the recognition of others for our faithfulness. This is pseudo-faithfulness for we were only faithful to ourselves when our actions sought our own glory.
I was created for God's glory. I just need to remember that.