As a professor I sometimes come across some interesting situations. One of the more common ones is when a student wants accolades for simply doing what they were supposed to do, rather than doing what they were supposed to do exceptionally well. As I try to communicate to them, doing what you are supposed to do is the baseline – doing it well is when you receive commendation.
It’s an attitude we can carry into the rest of our lives too. The sports player wants “props” simply for showing up every day rather than hustling to get the job done. The government official wants reelection simply because they didn’t make things worse – not that they did a whole lot to make things better. Tips jars abound in restaurants and coffee shops as if additional recompense is expected. We want praise for doing what we ought – even though we ought to do it regardless of the praise.
It can be tempting to take this same attitude to our walk with God. Yet Scripture makes it clear that we shouldn’t. As Luke 17:1 tells us:
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.
This isn’t what we want to hear! What we want to hear is that God will commend us for what we’ve done – that somehow our good works means that we receive special treatment. When we don’t get it – when obeying God doesn’t equal an easy life – it’s tempting to grow weary with what we are supposed to do as Christians. We may attempt to justify “minor” disobedience – as if obedience to Christ was on a weighted scale. However, this verse clearly shows that when we obey God, we are not doing anything worthy of acclamation, instead we are doing what we rightfully should do as servants of Christ. How generous He is, then, that He does reward us for being faithful to His commands!
It’s a point that’s punctuated by the next story in Luke. Immediately following is the story of the healed lepers – ten of them benefited from Christ’s generous grace, yet only one expressed gratitude. We rightly consider this an injustice – they all should have been filled with gratitude for the One that restored their lives. Yet we do the same when we expect, rather than are grateful for, rewards for obedience to God.
It isn’t easy to wrap our heads around, let alone our hearts. But just as we would consider it an honor if we were selected to serve a modern-day king – how much more so the King of Kings! May we see serving Christ as the privilege that it is and recognize that as such we should obediently follow Him!