Verses 24-39 of this passage have been recognized as Jesus’ clarification of what it means to be a disciple. At first glance, it is difficult to reconcile Jesus’ purpose of reconciliation with this explanation of division. This claim seems to be in contrast to his name, Prince of Peace. The purpose of this study is not to systematically work through that issue of Scripture. I will simply offer synopsis and summary and move on to the application found in verses 40-42. When Jesus was speaking of coming as one who divides even families, he was speaking in the context of the life of a disciple. He was well cognizant of the fact that when one person of a family makes a sold-out commitment to Christ, there is no guarantee that anyone else in the family will do the same. In reality, he was making certain his disciples were understanding their call to serve Him was over and above every other responsibility of their lives. Living as a disciple of Jesus often creates division within a family. Verse 37 makes it clear that the one who truly follows Jesus loves Him more than he loves his own family and even himself. This servant literally dies to his own will and seeks to live with a surrendered will. That is a will surrendered fully to the will of the Lord Jesus. After clearly teaching of the demands of discipleship, Jesus then turned to explain the reward given to the one who meets the demands of discipleship.
The Bible often speaks of rewards. Many in the modern church seem to be uncomfortable in dealing with those passages. After all, the prevailing thought is the human is not worthy of reward and is so full of sin that even to think about the reward is prideful. That could not be further from the truth. Paul continually reminded the people in the churches where they served that their state of depravity was before salvation. There is now a Spirit that works within a saved man to produce good fruit. How dare we call evil what God has called good. Jesus ends this discourse on discipleship with a mention of the reward. It strikes me rather odd that many who do not want to think about a reward as anything but prideful often take great pleasure in reading the King James translation of John 14 and sing the song mentioning the Mansion over the Hilltop. Jesus taught of rewards to be given to the faithful servant.
There are several life principles exposed in verses 40-42 regarding the reward. The first principle relates to the value of the reward and the position of the one who receives it. First, he mentions the prophets and the one considered to be righteous. Most everyone in his audience would have agreed that the prophet and the one who masters righteousness would receive a great reward. But Jesus emphasizes the reward given to the one who simply gives a cup of cold water. The prophet was thought to speak with God and the righteous man is one who had overcome sin. But the one who simply gave a cup of cold water would not have found a place of honor among the religious establishment. Yet, Jesus wanted to highlight the reward given to the one who serves others.
There is a premium in God’s economy paid to the one who gives himself in service to others. You might say the disciple in verses 24-40 is justified as a disciple when he serves others. Jesus did not assign value to positions in His Kingdom. His value system is based on obedience to use the resources he has given faithfully. Rewards will not be given according to position or earthly honor but directly in correlation to faithfulness.
These are encouraging thoughts. There are more servants of God in the church who never stand before others and speak than those who do. Even so, rewards are not given according to position but according to faithfulness and those rewards are secure. Jesus said this one giving cold water will not lose the reward. The one who serves pridefully in a position as a prophet or a righteous man may be in danger of losing a reward, but the one who simply serves in lowly position has fewer opportunities to act in pride. The reward is secure because man does not determine the reward, God does. In our economy, rewards are given according to the ability to perform. In God’s economy, rewards are given based on a man’s willingness to serve others.
As you reflect on the study for today, revisit the inventory of resources you completed earlier in the week. Think of each of those as a cup of cold water. Considering each resource, pray through how you might use those resources to serve others. You shall not lose your reward. While I may not be aware of everything that reward entails, I do expect it will include those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”