"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
- Luke 14:12-14 NIV
Recently, my mother and I were chatting about my husband's volunteer work at our church's soup kitchen for the homeless. I told her that my part was to bake cupcakes, and I happened to mention that there were times when people didn't even eat my baked goods, but they tossed them in the garbage. My mother was appalled. In an effort to comfort and encourage me, she quoted Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40 NIV) This was not only consolation, but confirmation, from the Lord for me. And it enabled me to vigorously shake off any negative feelings I might have had in the situation.
The truth is that I wasn't always able, or willing, to resist having negative attitudes about doing these "good works." When I first found out that my husband, Joe, had volunteered for soup kitchen duty through our church, I thought it was a great idea. But when I discovered that I was expected to bake cupcakes every time he was called to serve, I threw a fit. I thought to myself, "Why should my husband's volunteer work have to make more work for ME? After all, I'M not the one who volunteered. Don't I already do enough volunteer work, without having to do more than my share?" I was hurt, angry, and aggravated, and I told the Lord plainly that it wasn't fair. I tried to get my husband to settle for store bought baked goods to bring to the soup kitchen, but he said that all of the other workers brought only freshly baked goods. So I resigned myself to having to do the task, but I was determined not to like it. I complained whenever I had to shop for the ingredients. I grumbled when I did the actual baking. I murmured when I had to frost the cupcakes, and package them to go. I thought to myself, "Okay, I'm going to bake your stupid cupcakes, but I'm NOT going to like it." And I let my husband know loud and clear how I hated the job.
I'm ashamed to say that this went on for many months. Then one day, I felt so convicted about my bad attitude, that I began asking the Lord to forgive me, and to change my heart. That's when He led me to the above verses in Luke 14. I sensed the Lord telling me: "When you do good deeds for people who are not able, or inclined, to repay you, that's when you should rejoice the most! Why? Because that's when your rewards will come straight from ME, and I am able to pay you in ways that others never could!" From that day on, I had a totally different attitude about my cupcake baking duty. I shopped for the ingredients, did the baking, and frosted the cupcakes with great joy. I even began buying decorative cupcake liners, and colorful sprinkles to make my baked goods look more festive. And I thanked God for appreciating and rewarding my efforts, even if no one else did.
Are there things that YOU do for others that you don't receive any payment, recognition, or reward for? Then rejoice! Jesus said that your rewards will come straight from heaven--and that's a promise you can take to the bank!
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times that I've performed "good works" with a wrong attitude. When I'm guilty of this, help me to be quick to turn to You in repentance, and to let You change my heart. Thank You that when my efforts are unappreciated and unrewarded, I will reap heavenly rewards that will exceed any earthly blessings!
- J. M. Farro