The story is told of a woman reporter who came to Plains, Georgia, to interview Lillian Carter, mother of then President Jimmy Carter, in relation to an article about Mr. Carter and his family. His mother really didn’t want to be interviewed, but was being gracious. So when the reporter knocked at her door, Mrs. Carter invited her in. However during the interview the reporter asked some hard questions and actually was rather aggressive and rude.
“I want to ask you a question,” she said. “Your son ran for the presidency on the premise that he would always tell the truth. Has he ever lied?”
Mrs. Carter said, “I think he’s truthful; I think you can depend on his word.”
The reporter again asked if he had ever lied in his entire life.
His mother said, “Well, I guess maybe he told a little white lie.”
“Ah, see there!” the reporter exclaimed. “He’s lied! If he told a white lie, he has lied.” The reporter was still not satisfied and asked, “What is your definition of a white lie?” Mrs. Carter said, “It’s like a moment ago when you knocked and I said I was glad to see you.”
You know sometimes we are glad to see someone at our doors, other times, not so much. In today’s gospel lesson Jesus is finishing up his instructions to his disciples before sending them out on their first mission trip. You may recall that last week Jesus talked to them about their fears and tried to allay their fears by reminding them that even though people may not like them, may call them names, in fact, they may try to harm them, BUT despite that they should not be afraid because God cares for them and is watching out over and for them. He also instructed them on the place of priority that Jesus must take in his follower’s life. And now as he concludes his instructions he tells them about rewards.
He has told them that there will be those who won’t like them or their message. But there will be people in these villages to which they are going who will welcome them and offer them wonderful hospitality. And he talks about the rewards that people will receive who are good to them, who are good to his disciples.
There is a story told about Baron De Rothschild. The Baron was one of the richest men who ever lived. Legend has it that the Baron once posed before an artist as a beggar. While the artist, Ary Scheffer, was painting him, the financier sat before him in rags and tatters holding a tin cup. A friend of the artist entered, and the baron was so well disguised that he was not recognized. Thinking he was really a beggar, the visitor dropped a coin into the cup.
Ten years later, the man who gave the coin to Rothschild received a letter containing a bank order for 10,000 francs and the following message: “You one day gave a coin to Baron de Rothschild in the studio of Ary Scheffer. He has invested it and today sends you the capital which you entrusted to him, together with the compounded interest. A good action always brings good fortune. Signed, Baron de Rothschild.” This simple act of kindness was indeed bountifully rewarded.
The Baron said, “A good action always brings good fortune.” Hmmm, that is not always the case here on this earth is it? Sometimes we do good things for others and it seems as though it was unappreciated and maybe even unnoticed. Sometimes we do good to others and people can even get angry at us. In the context of our gospel lesson the rewards are in particular for hospitality. But as we look through the Scriptures we see that God is paying attention to all the good things we may do and not only in regards to hospitality. Later, Scripture tells us to do good to all, but especially to the household of faith. And why especially to the household of faith do you think? It is because you and I through faith are children of God and God the Father really wants us to be good to all his children! God the Son wants us to be good to all His brothers and sisters. God loves his whole creation and all humanity, but he especially loves his children and we should too. In Ephesians we are told that we as Christians are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared for us to do. There are good things we can do every day for others. In fact, these good things to do are things God Himself set up ahead of time so that we could do them.
In Titus we are told that Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all sin and to purify for himself a people zealous for good works. God wants us not only to be willing to be good to others but to be excited about being good to others.
And what is really interesting is that even though being good is something we are supposed to be; doing good to others is something we ought to do, in fact doing good is something we are commanded to do, yet, despite that, God will reward us for the good that we have done. Not only the great and wonderful good deeds, but even the little good deeds will be rewarded. Jesus talks about the one who gives even just a cup of cold water to one of his disciples, that person will receive a reward. Not only will God reward us for those good things we do that others may see us do, but God will reward us for doing those things only He knows about. Only He knows about our prayers for each other, but he will reward us for our prayers. He knows when we speak up on behalf of others even if the people we are sticking up for are unaware. Last week we noted that God is so concerned about us and so loves us that He knows every intimate detail even the amount of the hair on our heads. This week we note that God so loves us that he knows every time we do something good for others, even the little things that we may do. So as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians “Therefore my beloved friends, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Our labor here on earth is NOT in vain, it is not for nothing.
Doing good is what God does and it is what we His children are to be doing as well. We like the disciples have been sent out into the world. We are to be always on the lookout for good things to do. Sometimes our good deeds are simply composed of being polite and kind to others who may be obnoxious, like Lillian Carter did. We can visit, assist, and help people in need. We can give financially. We can pray for others and encourage those who are discouraged. We can share the good news of Jesus’s great love with others. Doing these things is what we were created for and what we called to do and even though this giving to others, this helping others usually brings us joy, yet God wants us to also realize that He is watching us too. He is keeping track and He will reward us when we see him one day. Amen