“…And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6)
This phrase is repeated in Matthew chapter 6 three times – v4, regarding giving, v6 which is about prayer, and v18 which is to do with fasting.
Each time Jesus is comparing his way with the ‘hypocrites’, who love to make a show of their religion. They give generously, but ostentatiously, so everyone can see them; they pray in such a way so that it’s obvious to everyone how pious they are; they fast and make a meal of it (so to speak). They’ve received their ‘reward – and in full’, Jesus said.
In other words, if their religious efforts were just about accumulating human praise and respect, well, that’s all they’re going to get. But that is not the Jesus way.
It seems strange to say that God ‘rewards’ prayer, fasting or giving. After all, isn’t the better way to things for no reward? If we’re just interested in the reward, isn’t that just me thinking about myself still? But the truth is everything we do is guided by reward – we do things (healthy or not) because there is a motivation – a benefit – that we get at the end of it.
So what’s the reward that God is offering? I suggest that the reward is God himself. Jesus calls God Father, and lets those who follow him call God Father too. That’s something the ‘hypocrites’ just interested in human praise will never get. The ‘secret place’ Jesus is talking about is about a relationship with God himself. That’s what God made us – and saved us – for: to know and love him, and receive his love. The reward of prayer, obedience to his word and serving him and others is not to get stuff off of God (blessings, a happy life etc), but to get God.
When someone gets married, they don’t do it to get their husband or wife’s ‘stuff’, they marry them to get them. Marrying them – committing their life to them – is its own reward. So it is with God. Trusting in the God and Father of Jesus Christ, through Jesus, means we get to call God Father, we get to have him in our life and have the promise of an eternity with him. That’s the reward.
Lent is a period of reflection, repentance and maybe even fasting. But God never calls us to repent or turn away from something without giving us the alternative – the turning to. He wants us to know and worship him – and the reward is always great, because the reward is him.
Question for reflection: Do you believe that God wants you to know him better and grow in your relationship with him?