“You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today.” Deuteronomy 11:27
There is an undoubtedly a divinely ordained correlation between obedience (one aspect of godliness) and blessing. It is the assumptions about this correlation which get us into trouble. What do I mean? The moment we say to ourselves, “If I do this, then I’ll get this,” or to others, “If you’ll do this, then you’ll get this,” we’ve not only been tripped up, but are trying to bring others down with us.
“But,” you say, “Doesn’t God at times promise that blessings are the reward of obedience?” For example in this notoriously misapplied verse:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Malachi 3:10 God, in the case of tithing, promises earthly, temporal, and material blessing.
Let’s continue. God promises spiritual, physical, intellectual, financial, social, relational, and eternal rewards for seeking, remembering, and obeying. Yet even these rewards are free from obligation and conceived in grace. God is never obliged to reward. Or, is He? Further, any spiritual diligence on our part, any obedience, is itself His gift to us.
Might we have plucked this Old Testament “rewards now for obedience now” concept and tried to root it or misapply it in the New Testament Era? How so? The focus of OT blessings seemed to have been temporal and physical. The NT focus seems to be spiritual and eternal. A few examples:
- “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. Revelation 22:12
- “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:27
- “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
We’ll consider this more deeply in the second part of this series. For the church now, there appears to be an ideological chasm between reaping what you sow, and seed-faithing, the idea of giving to a need and expecting from God a return on that gift. A few questions:
1. Are indeed, blessings the reward for obedience?
2. Is “doing to get” or “giving to get” biblical?
3. Does our obedience ever obligate God to do anything?