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God’s Word for You

Luke 6:32-35 Love, do good, and lend.

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 23, 2018

32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? To be sure, even the sinners love those who love them.

Jesus uses the word charis (χάρις) here in a special way. Normally, this is the word for “grace” or “favor,” either the grace of God which forgives sins (Acts 11:22; Ephesians 2:8) or the favor of a person who is kindly disposed (Ruth 2:2, Greek). Here, in a passive construction, it means “what credit is that to you?” Another way of saying this which fits the context is, “What reward would that bring you?” Anyone can love those who love them, but God’s will is that we do more. John warned: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even the sinners do the same thing.

Once again, what reward would there be if you only do good to people who do good to you? For most people in the world, that’s just a reaction. Anyone can do that. God’s will is that we do more. Paul emphasized doing good to other Christians but he did not leave anyone out when he said: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even the sinners lend to sinners in order to be paid back in full.

What reward will there be for you if you only lend to people you’re sure will pay you back? Anyone does that. That’s what the whole banking business is based on—that and interest. But it’s a business. God wants us to do so much more. In the Law, God told Moses: “Be openhanded and freely lend whatever a man needs” (Deuteronomy 15:8). And David said about believers: “They are always generous and lend freely” (Psalm 37:24).

35 Instead, love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the unthankful and the evil. (EHV)

What God wants us to do is to do all these things (love, do good, lend, and more) but not to expect anything back for it. Love whoever hates you. Do good to someone whose does you wrong or harm. Lend to someone who can never pay you back. That’s God’s will for us.

But Jesus hasn’t just been talking about God’s will. He could have, but he’s been saying charis, charis, charis, all along. Reward. We Lutherans are not very comfortable talking about the reward of heaven because it’s so easily misunderstood. If eternal life is only a reward, then it would come to us because of something we’d done—and that’s not what the Bible teaches. In fact, all we have to do is run back to a couple of those passages we mentioned before that define the other uses of the word charis, grace, to see this.

In Acts 11:22, “the evidence of the grace of God” is the faith the people of Antioch had in Jesus Christ. The people there were “true to the Lord with all their hearts” (v. 23), and this is possible only by the grace of God. In Ephesians 2:8, the true path to salvation is spelled out by Paul: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

So what should we make of Jesus’ promise that for Christians who also love, do, and lend freely, our reward will be great? Is he simply and “merely” (such a word to use!) talking about heaven? To be sure, heaven is reward enough for anyone, and heaven was achieved for us already by Christ on the cross. Yet Jesus holds out a misthos (μισθὸς) “reward,” which is something beyond our understanding. The man in prison dreams of nothing else but being out of prison. Either he knows he will be released and counts the days with precision or else he plans or at least dreams of escape. But being out is everything. It is the freedom he knows better than anyone who has never been in prison. So it is with mankind in this life. We know Christ, and we dream of the release from this life and the imprisonment of sin, temptation, guilt, death, grief, and all of the other calamities of the sinful world. But just as the prisoner does not concern himself with glories piling up after his release, so also the Christian doesn’t worry about glories and accolades piling up on our behalf in heaven. Heaven itself is enough. We have two doctrines here which must be held at the same time like a schoolboy carrying his tray and his drink with the same hand: We will have rewards in heaven, unique to each of us, but we have no right to demand any rewards for anything we have done in life. We have been warned more than once: “There are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (Luke 13:30). And remember the Prodigal son’s brother, who was angry about the Prodigal’s blessings when he returned home (Luke 15:28). Even so, in the parable, the Father “went out and pleaded with him.” Your reward is heaven, and there will be even more for you there. But only God knows what that more might be. Until then, live in the joy of forgiveness, and the peace of knowing your Savior. Live by lending, doing, and loving.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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