A lady from Bible Study this morning asked a question that has been rolling around in my mind all day.
“Does God reward obedience?”
I don’t know her well, and just caught the tail end of a story she was telling a group of women about something radical God had called her and her husband to do years ago. Something that required courage and that kind of crazy willingness to do that which only God could enable someone to do. They had obeyed with overwhelming joy. But now that she looked back at it, she remembered something that had happened very soon afterwards. She was given the gift of a pregnancy, something that had not been possible before. And after one child, came three more. But until this time, she hadn’t put it all together. Did God reward her and her husband for their obedience to Him? “Yes!” I had said, “I believe God rewards obedience.” I shared with her something that had happened this last weekend. Jason had come home with twenty bags of mulch in order to mulch around all of our fruit trees. We asked the kids if they wanted to help out and, surprisingly, they did. All three of our kids helped Jason haul mulch around our yard, back and front, and spread it under our fruit trees and gardenia bushes. They did so with great excitement, not expecting anything in return. This impacted me so much that, later on, when I gave them their chore money, I gave them extra for a job well-done helping Daddy with the mulch. I rewarded them for their work. But later on this afternoon I had lunch in the garden. Gazing out at our freshly-mulched, miniature orchard, I began to think more deeply about my children’s work.
I don’t think their reward was the dollar bill that I gave them.
I remember Adeline struggling eagerly to push the wheel barrow, loaded down with mulch, through our gate into the backyard. She had tipped it and got it stuck on the siding of our house. Thaddaeus had rushed to help dislodge it, but it was wedged pretty good. Jason eased it out effortlessly and showed them how to load another bag of mulch onto the wheel barrow. He taught them to go to the farthest tree first and drop the load, and then to go to the next farthest. I remember going back inside and thinking to myself that, for sure, Jeremiah was going to let his brother and sister handle the dirty work this time. After all, we didn’t even offer to pay them anything for this. But, to my amazement, Jeremiah was zipping down the stairs. “They haven’t started without me, have they?” he asked as he rushed outside to help them. Later on, in the middle of my shower, Thaddaeus’s voice could be heard outside my door. I had to turn off the water in order to make out his words.
“Mommy, we’re done! Come see what we did!”
After several more interruptions from my youngest, my shower was finally over and I was , at long last, ready to see the work that they had done. Thaddaeus held out a completely black hand to me and I took it. And there they all were, beaming with pride as they showed me all of the trees encircled with ebony. All hands were black (though Jeremiah rinsed his as soon as the work was done) but their Daddy’s were blackest of all. Does God reward obedience? Yes, I still believe He does. And I believe that He rewards with all kinds of things. With children and financial provision and safety and blessings. Sometimes. But other times it does not look like He is rewarding our obedience. Sometimes it looks like we suffer because of obedience. Sometimes it looks like we are a casualty of war. And sometimes it looks like the very opposite of a reward. Our family is in the middle of coming through a trial such as we have never endured before. And it came as a result of obedience. I have raged at God, reminding Him of all the good we have done for Him. But even in my raging, I was drawn to Him. I longed for Him. And in my darkest hour, I have found Him to be my greatest reward. My children were not motivated by money. They truly desired to work alongside their Daddy. It gave them great joy to work hard right beside him, taking his advise, learning from him. And showing off the beautiful work that they accomplished together at the end of the day. And it gave their Daddy great joy to be able to work with them, knowing that he was giving them their greatest reward. He was giving them himself.
After this the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1