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We welcome God by giving a cup of cold water to one of his servants. The smallest act of kindness, if done out of loving regard for Christ, is never lost.
"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."
Matthew 10:40-42 NKJV
On the Receiving End
At last we hear what we knew all along. Not all of us are called to serve on the front lines. Not everyone is sent out to heal the sick, kick out the demons, or preach from the rooftops. Disciples, especially those who "take neither money nor provisions, and make no reservations for the night", are going to need assistance. Many people will have opportunities to respond in a variety of supportive ways.
There's a lot of "receiving" going on in these verses. Receiving in the sense of acceptance, giving a warm welcome, providing hospitality, opening your arms, your heart and your home. Jesus mentioned cold water, not just any old water. In a hot, dry climate cool water, fresh from the well, was a special treat and much appreciated. Therefore, give what you would like to receive if you were in the shoes of those who are engaged in doing good.
John Wesley is remembered for this exhortation: "Earn all that you can, save all that you can, and give all that you can, to as many as you can, in all manner that you can, for as long as you can." To him, works of mercy were an active way of loving God. Through giving we are "receiving" God, and in the process the needs of his disciples are being met.
Giving also leads to another type of receiving. Those who provide for God's servants, receive a reward. In the eyes of the one who bestows the reward, you deserve it, it's due you. In the heart of the receiver, you know you have already been paid.
What the reward is, is not specified. But you can see the value Jesus placed on the involvement of each person by the size of the reward. The big surprise is that even a small act of kindness given to aid one of his disciples, puts that good-hearted person in the same line with the disciple when payday comes around. This is classic Jesus. In the kingdom of heaven, rewards are not based on years of service nor the publicity given to a particular task, nor any criteria we use.
We assume Jesus was still talking to his disciples when he spoke these words. Being human, they might not agree with this kingdom economy. Why should they get no more recognition for their services than someone who simply handed them a drink of water!
First Jesus elevated The Twelve--receiving a disciple is like receiving God! That's pretty good. I must be someone really special. Then Jesus lowered the boom--anyone who welcomes a disciple, even with only one cup of cold water, gets a reward just like the disciple. That's not fair. I guess I'm not so great after all.
The disciples would need to work without regard for who gets what amount of credit. The focus is on the job--God's field of golden grain, all ready for harvest. And everyone is encouraged to help God's workers in whatever way they are able, even if their offering seems small and insignificant. Nothing done in the kingdom of heaven on behalf of Jesus will ever be lost or forgotten.
It reminds me of the parable Jesus told one day about workers in a vineyard. Some started at 6 a.m., others were hired at 9, noon, 3 and 5 p.m. One hour after the last hiring, the paymaster handed out the checks and all the workers received exactly the same amount which the 6 a.m. workers had agreed to first thing that morning!
Three groups of people are implied in today's passage. Those who welcome Jesus by showing kindness to his disciples; those who reject Jesus outright by rejecting his disciples; and the vast majority in the middle who do neither.
The brave souls who perform acts of mercy are noticed. They stand out because most people are curled up in their comfort zone. Offering hospitality puts the provider in league with the ones they harbor; that can be risky business. The rewards of our heavenly Father are for those who take their chances and side with God's righteous. Be assured, God is watching. No small act goes unseen, not even a single cup of refreshing water.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker : What are some pins, ribbons, certificates, trophies, or other awards you have received?
How do you like to be rewarded? Public recognition, money, affection, the words "thank you", a smiling face, ice cream, a day off . . . . . . .(Add your own ideas.)
Of all the awards you have earned, which one do you treasure most?
Name some acts of mercy you have done throughout your lifetime. Have you been rewarded already for any of these? Share some details with your group about one such experience.
Was it a good idea for Jesus to be promising rewards? Why or why not? What do you think the reward is which Jesus promised?
Do you agree with Jesus that those who assist a righteous person in any way deserve to receive the same reward as the righteous person? Or are you an "equal pay for equal work" person? For what reasons might Jesus make such a seemingly unfair statement?
The United Methodist Book of Worship includes the following Covenant Prayer.Is this a prayer which you could pray and mean it? Explain your answer.Which is your favorite and least favorite line?What does this prayer say about discipleship?If the language seems out of date, rephrase it in contemporary speech.
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
What has Jesus called you to do? Where is he sending you?