When I was a teacher in public school we frequently had this debate on giving prizes or awards to students for meeting expectations. On one hand, teachers see how motivating it is for a child to receive a tangible, extrinsic reward for good behavior, grades, attendance, etc. Inversely, it seems irresponsible for children to become entitled to gifts for simply doing what is expected or required in school. As a parent I say that your occupation and current life’s work (even at 7 years old!) is to give your best effort in your studies and schoolwork. Your payoff is knowledge, skills, and honest feedback about your progress. In the same way at home, my children are required to do a certain amount of chores just because they live in the house and are learning to contribute to our family. They don’t get paid for these chores because they are a responsibility and expectation from myself and their father. (We do provide extra opportunities for work, however, in which they can earn a few bucks if they choose!)
So you can imagine how convicting it was to uphold the above principles with my former students and children, and then read Luke 17:7-10 and realize I may be expecting natural rewards from others and from God when I do works in His name.
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
There is no greater humility than to acknowledge that when I serve the Lord with my deeds, I am merely doing the work He has called me to do. I am not special, I deserve no prizes and medals. I rightfully obligated my life to Christ when I accepted both his salvation and Lordship and am learning to give Him permission to use me as He wills. I am ever so grateful that He chose an unworthy sinner like me to save, to instruct, to sanctify, and to use as a vessel to display His glory, power and might. Again, focusing on what I do for Him will create pride, self-righteousness and a growing frustration for not being appreciated, but learning to focus on what HE has done and continues to do in me and with me will create awe, wonder, and thankfulness simply to be a part of His grand design to see His Kingdom come.
Teach us, O God, to serve you with the proper perspective that we are merely unworthy servants who give you thanksgiving and praise that we get to be a part of the building of Your kingdom. Jesus, thank you for reconciling us to the Father through your blood that we might be given a holy assignment because we are now set apart for His purposes. Holy Spirit, strengthen us and give us endurance to do all the work you have set before us, that we might see the work You began with our hands to completion and then enter into Your rest at the proper time.