Saturday, August 18, 2007


REWARD - by Vincent NNANNA

For a reward to be truly rewarding, it has to be manifold in its manifestations. It has to impact lives apart from that of the beneficiary alone. Its end result ought to be to magnify or bear testimony to the grace and glory of God. This multifarious expression of a single act of gratitude coincides with the picture as conveyed in the first Epistle of Peter, chapter 4, verse 10, which says: "As every man received the gift even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." I have highlighted four key phrases which clearly define what should be our attitude in the giving and receiving process.

Webster dictionary defines manifold as a whole that consists of many diverse elements. That is to say, a reward, like the single word it is, consists of one whole attitude that contains diverse elements. Bearing that in mind, it is important to look beyond what we would receive as reward and try to discern its component parts.

Not long ago, a surgeon friend of mine says that what gratifies him most is not the fees paid by his patients. In the save vein, he has never felt any regret by the inability of some of his clients to pay their medical bills. In each case he does maintain an equilibrate state of mind. His attitude lies in the understanding that he is only a tool in God's hand, that the manifold blessings he receives do not always come from payment of medical bills. He went further to say that the fact that most of his patients do open their mouth to outpour their feelings of gratitude to God, is always a great reward that money cannot buy. He is always elated by such simple expression like: "The Lord has done it;" "I thank God for your life, doctor;" or still, "I don't know how to thank you for what you have done to my life." To him, the honest acknowledgment of wellness humbles him beyond expression and constantly reminds him of the faithfulness of God who says: "I am the Lord that healeth thee." (Exodus 15:26b). I am persuaded by this gentleman's attitude to believe that giving does not impoverish us, neither does withholding make us richer.

In trying to comprehend the import of reward, it might be rewarding to take a cursory look at its opposite, denial. Denial has to do with withholding something that one had looked forward to receiving knowing well that he had laboured enough to deserve it in return. I do not know of any normal human being who would pretend to be cheerful in the face of apparent denial. It is natural to express anger and disappointment. These feelings only serve as escape valve for some emotional combustion that denial could build in us; they do not make amends for the denial. Often times, the reaction would vary according to the magnitude of the object or the degree of attachment, nay the premium on the reward. It is usually difficult, if not impossible to look the other party in the face and say: God bless you! Neither do men walk up to the pulpit to testify before the body of Christ as to how kindly they have been treated by someone who denied them of a reward. Like its opposite, denial also could give rise to various emotional, mental or physical, but nonetheless unpalatable reactions. It is an ill wind that blows no one good - both the perpetrator or the offended person. Rather than cement or solidify the bridge of friendship between persons, denial creates a gulf that separates even the best of friends or blood relations. It therefore, beats me hollow to understand why some outwardly serious-looking Christians would fall prey to the temptation to deliberately prefer to deny others their legitimate rewards. In so doing, they inadvertently deny God of the opportunity to receive the glory due to His holy name. When God blessed man and gave him power to subdue, as contained in the Book of Genesis, chapter one, verse 28, does that mandate include the authority to subdue and dominate or deny our fellow human beings? Maybe, we need to seek a better interpretation and understanding of our bounds and limits with regard to that command.

Without risking overflogging the issue, it might be of immense help to appreciate some of the adverse consequences that might result from denial. It can and does give rise to a feeling of discontentment; a feeling of an unexpected vacuum begging to be filled. It leads to loss of confidence. A measure of trust that took many years to cultivate, could crumble in a twinkle of an eye. Disillusionment would make someone who had held another in high esteem to begin to doubt his integrity or moral rectitude. It could make one to wonder just how much of a hypocrite a professing Christian could be.

History is replete with violent reactions resulting from denial of one sort of another. Strong empires have fallen with huge loss of lives. Micro family units and business relationships have been torn apart. The list is inexhaustive and so are the consequences. In most cases the effects have been disproportionate to the original cause.

My system always runs riot and I tremble much at the prospect of struggling daily to live up to the spirit of the Golden Rule in a positive way. I however, obtain my consolation from the Messiah's admonition immediately following the Beatitudes; Luke 6:38: "Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." From the foregoing, it is clear that the reward phenomenon is preemptive. That is to say, we must first engage ourselves in some noble deed before expecting to be rewarded. This sounds like another injunction of Jesus regarding where we should store our treasures. Alas, how much we resist being meted with the same measure we have doled out to others, let alone having it shaken, pressed down and overflowing. One would have taken pitched tent on the loophole if this text had only stopped at "measuring unto you." But it categorically states that "shall men give into your bosom." This, to me, implies that what we will receive as reward will have great impact in our innermost part, the heart which is the vital organ of every human being. It goes beyond scratching on the surface. How often do we hear some aggrieved person remark that the wrong someone did had touched their heart? Were it possible that men could borrow even one phrase from the Epistle of Peter earlier referred to, such as "ministering as good stewards" in our relationship with other, there would be a world of men with manifold blessings pressed down and running over. A world where there would be no room for lack or want. Who says we cannot have absolute satisfaction in life? This is attainable because it had been our original state from creation. It is only by implicit obedience to the Scriptures can a sure return to the promised land be made possible.

Let us give impersonally and impartially. Let us act as good stewards of Him who is faithful. The Scripture says that our left hand should not know what our right hand is doing. My understanding of this passage is that we should not behave like the Pharisees who stand by the road side to sing their own praises. We ought to give without expecting anything in return, especially from our benefactors. According to one celebrated American author and religious leader, "The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father, and blessed is the man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good." (Science & Health with key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy). This appears to sum up the attitude of my surgeon friend, and is supposed to be the attitude of every man made in the image and likeness of God.

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