Theme: Riches and Blessing
This week’s lesson teaches us how sacrifice brings blessing.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
In spite of these obvious qualifications, Christ’s promise of homes, family and fields is an encouragement for those willing to serve him. It tells us that God is good and that he is no man’s debtor. Sometimes the idea that “God is no man’s debtor” has been used wrongly to try to control God, as it were. People have suggested that if we do so-and-so, then God is obliged to do so-and-so for us. That is manipulative, and the text does not support this view. However, properly received, it does encourage us to serve God in Christ’s service, knowing that we will be blessed for it. There are several important grounds for this encouragement.
1. Great blessings. One thing that keeps many from following Jesus—the rich young ruler is an example—is the feeling that the cost of following him is too high. We would have to give up “too much.” Matthew 19:28-29 teaches that the blessings to be found in Christ’s service are greater than the blessings we could have without it. The rich young man was unwilling to give up his possessions. He loved them more than Jesus, and he could not be saved without loving God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. However, if he had followed Christ, turning his back on his wealth, what this text teaches is that Jesus would have blessed him a hundred times over, possibly with a home, a large family and fields. He could not be certain of the form Christ’s blessing would take. He might have been called to a life of itinerant ministry, as Paul was. But whatever the form of his service, the blessings he would receive would be many times greater than he could have given up.
In other words, one must address Christians and not unbelievers to get a true perspective on this promise.
2. Secure blessings. It is not only the greatness of the blessings promised by Jesus that encourages us in his service. Their security encourages us too. The young man turned away from Christ because he was unwilling to part with his possessions, but it is an irony of the story that he turned from possessions which were certain to possessions which were at best uncertain. His possessions may have been lost before the year was out. His gold may have been stolen. He may have forfeited his lands. As was the case with prodigal son, his friends may have grown cold and abandoned him.
This point can be made the other way. God may allow the ungodly to amass great wealth to their destruction. As for Christians, if you belong to Christ and put riches (or anything else) before service to Christ, God may take away your wealth until you repent and turn to him. However, if you are a follower of Christ and place him first in everything, you can be sure that whatever possessions God wants you to have will be safe.
3. Blessings that are blessed. The third reason why the promise of Matthew 18:28-29 encourages us to serve Jesus is that the blessings promised by Jesus are themselves blessed by God in the sense that his favor rests on them and his divine power makes them effective in assisting other people. To be blessed in this way is to be twice blessed, because the one receiving the gift is blessed along with the giver. But remember, the promise is for those who are following after Jesus Christ. The promise is great. It is an encouragement to trust God and serve Christ. But it is for those who have turned from all lesser loyalties to serve him and not for those who have turned back to their possessions, as the young man did. To these alone God promises homes, parents, children, friends and fields—with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
How does a proper understanding of God as no man‘s debtor encourage us?
How does the rich ruler’s story remind us that we can have security in God’s blessings.
How are God’s blessings blessed?