by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Matthew 5:46 NASB
When Jesus said the above words, He was talking about a kind of love contrary to what His listeners had heard before. It would be like someone telling you, “Do you want to go to Mars? I have one ticket left.” What? Are you kidding? That’s dangerous. How do I know it’s safe?
Jesus’ original audience must have been thinking the same thing. Are you kidding? Loving those who don’t love me is dangerous. They will take advantage of me. After all, then I should love the Romans and those who help them like the tax gatherers. Jesus can’t mean them. No way.
But Jesus dug into their motives by asking, What reward is there for loving those who love you? You know the tax gatherers fake liking you to get on your good side and then take your money. When you love others who love you, you are just like the tax gatherers. You love for selfish reasons. I’m asking you to love everyone, even to your possible detriment.
Jesus’s teaching stood in opposition to what the rabbis and other religious leaders were teaching. The Pharisees used Leviticus 19:18 (at least part of it) to prove they didn’t need to love their enemies: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (NASB). They promoted the idea that only fellow Jews were technically neighbors. And even some of them were exempted, like the tax collectors and other “sinners.” Love everyone but those people—and the wicked Romans, of course.
Jesus challenged His listeners’ motives. They must have been wondering, I should love the guy who robs me when he overcharges me on my taxes? But then I won’t be able to complain about him. I won’t be able to feel superior to such a worm. Then I won’t feel justified to hate.
We can find a crucial insight from Jesus on this in the verse just before Matthew 5:46. He said, “For he [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 NASB).
Jesus was saying, I’m God, and like my heavenly Father who is such a good God, we give common grace and blessings even to those who are unjust. Why can’t you trust me to provide whatever you, my chosen ones, need as you face a scary, sacrificial opportunity? If I provide for those who don’t honor me, won’t I provide for you who is my favored one? You’ll have enough love to share with others.
At this point, those listening to Jesus didn’t know anything about the great sacrifice their teacher would be making within a short time. But we do. We can tell ourselves, If God loves me so sacrificially, providing salvation at such a high cost, then I can love others no matter the cost.
If it feels like you need to protect your heart by loving only those who can offer you something good in return, consider God’s unconditional love, modeled for you through Jesus suffering the ultimate humiliation and sacrifice.
About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03 or Facebook.
Kathy’s most recent book is God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature from which this devotion is excerpted. Kathy and her husband, Larry, of 50 years, co-wrote God’s Intriguing Questions.
Join the conversation: In what way has God shown you his unconditional love and asked you to pass it on?