The Prophet’s Reward
The Prophet’s Reward
Scripture: Matthew 10: 40-42
There is a saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others. (https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4070299/secret-to-happiness/)
There are many simple ways we can summarize the passage before us today. We might say ‘Tit for tat’ or ‘karma’, though those usually have negative connotations. We might say that what are described are ‘Acts of Reciprocity’.
However, we might define them what is clear is that Jesus is encouraging us to behave in a way that welcomes people. There are no exclusions. It isn’t welcome these people, but not these other people. It is an open invitation to welcome people with God’s grace and love. It is a core teaching that comes right out of the Hebrew scriptures and which informs our ideas of Christian love.
This section on discipleship begins in Matt 9: 37 where we read, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” That message continues through chapter 10 and ends with the short passage we read this morning. This beautiful passage about welcoming people comes on the heels of last weeks passage, about the sword and divisions in families. It contrasts with the language and imagery in last weeks passage and helps place it all within its proper context.
Consider that in Deuteronomy 24 we read the following:
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 24:19)
Go back to Matt 9:37, the verse that begins the section of scripture that concludes with our reading. What is Jesus speaking about? The harvest. It isn’t a mistake or a coincidence that it is the harvest which is being referred to. It is very deliberate. This passage of scripture which ends in our reading today is about discipleship. It is about the hardship of discipleship and about the rewards of discipleship. We are the workers that God seeks to have go out and create places of welcome for all people. That they would have enough to eat and that they would be provided for.
Welcoming people in love and in Christ’s name is something that Christians have always sought to do. It is part of our DNA faith-lives. There is a document, or a manuscript known as The Didache. The Didache, or The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations, dates to about the second century and was written in either Syria or Palestine. It was written by earlier adopters of the way of Christ. The first or second generation of people who might have clearly identified as Christian. Among other things, it guides a community in how to practice what Jesus is describing in this passage: how to welcome people and treat them properly.
All of the guidance in The Didache flows from its opening line: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.”
The way of following Christ is the way of life. Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection illustrate the way of life. That death itself has been overcome and that life abundant is what we are called towards. Our calling as Christians is to live and offer life. We don’t put exclusions on it, we don’t hold back that life giving love from those we don’t like, don’t understand, or don’t want to be around. We offer life to all people, which is an extension of the life, the grace, the mercy, and the love that God first offered to us. By welcoming people we demonstrate God’s love of welcome and inclusion. And we don’t do it because we’ve been offered a reward.
As Christians we often speak of eternity or heaven. Our eternal reward for following Jesus. As we come to an end of this section of scripture on discipleship we see the first words or promise of reward. However, the reward that is promised is very poorly defined. We are left to do a lot of guessing about what the reward might look like. Or are we?
What is a “prophet’s reward” or what is the “reward of the righteous”? It seems that their rewards are the callings themselves. That is, the act of being loving people who welcome others without judgement is itself its own reward. Eugene Peterson’s The Message captures how many commentators have understood Jesus’s promises. He translates our passage today as follows: “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” (Chelsey Harmon – https://cepreaching.org/commentary/2023-06-26/matthew-1040-42-3/)
The giving is the reward. Being a faithful follower of Jesus, means living a life of generosity and gratitude. This isn’t a new challenge, it is the way it has always been for the faithful community. There will be difficulties, there will be people opposed to the way we live. There will be people who don’t understand why we are being generous; they may think we are naïve or that we are being taken advantage of. People may try to stop us, the way the City of Barrie proposed to fine people who handed out food, water, and other items to homeless individuals on city property. That proposal was defeated, but it was debated. Someone thought it was a good idea and that idea runs contrary to what we believe as followers of Christ.
Our passage today reminds us why we have answered a call to discipleship to the one named the Christ. This entire chapter speaks to the hardship and difficulty of serving Christ by serving people. Today in these simple short passages we are reminded why we do it. The prophet’s reward, the act of serving people, of giving a cold cup of water on a hot day is the reward itself.
If you are interested in a lifetime of happiness, if you desire to deepen your walk of faith and to serve the risen Lord, then find ways to help people. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
Donate to St. Andrew's
Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website.