Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Which Reward Will You Choose?


I don’t watch a lot of television, but I love watching Seinfeld reruns. Seinfeld has four main characters: Jerry Seinfeld, a stand up comic and the center of the show; Elaine, Jerry’s girlfriend-turned-friend; Kramer, Jerry’s across the hall outrageous neighbor; and George, Jerry’s overly sensitive and ever so trivia friend. One of my favorite episodes is “The Big Salad” from 1994. As most Seinfeld shows, the whole show revolves around a ridiculously simply event – the purchase of a salad.

George and his girlfriend are eating lunch at the local diner. As they get ready to leave, George takes the check and offers to buy lunch. His girlfriend finally accepts his offer. As George is paying the bill, a waitress hands his girlfriend her “big salad to go”. When the couple arrive at Jerry’s apartment, George’s girlfriend hands Elaine her lunch, the big salad, and is so sweetly thanked by Elaine.

George finds this a bit of a problem! Since George actually paid for the salad, he feels that his girlfriend has inappropriately taken credit for his good gesture! After stewing over this for a while with Jerry, George and Elaine share a cab ride. In the cab, he tells Elaine, ever so sheepishly as if not really wanting the credit, that it was actually he that bought her the salad, and basically that she’d thanked the wrong person. Of course, Elaine is outraged that he’s being so trivial!

The episode reminds me of a passage concerning how we are not to do our good deeds for public recognition. In Matthew 6:1-2 Jesus says:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

We have to decide what kind of reward we want: an eternal one, or a temporal one. If you seek the recognition of men for your good deeds, you’ll get it, and for a short while, that pat on the back will feel really good. But then, the very ones that gave you that good feeling will forget all about what you did, or expect you to do something good for them as well. On the other hand, God will not forget what you’ve done, and will not let it go unnoticed. He will reward you in heaven with gifts that will not rot or decay.

It’s your choice – do you want the quick feel-good, or do you want the eternal glory?

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