There was an elder who described three reasons we do good things while we are alive. One reason is to avoid the punishment of hell. The second reason is to earn our reward in heaven. The third reason we do good is because we love God, whether we are punished or rewarded. It is the third reason that will ultimately mean we experience our reward, if we receive a reward, as heaven because it is the only reason that is not based upon selfish objectives.
I was once told that we humans are basically a selfish species. We are constantly looking for a way to advance ourselves. This seems to be true whether we are speaking in secular or spiritual terms. The problem is, we are selfish not because that is our nature, but because our nature has been tainted by sin. Our true human nature is to love selflessly, because God loves selflessly.
One symptom of this condition how we treat others. For us to advance, someone else must not advance. Even in the way many consider heaven. It is unacceptable to think “that” person could “possibly” be in heaven with us!!!! In that case, our indignation will be our torment, and we will experience the love of God as hell rather than heaven. Why do I mention this today? Take a moment and read today’s Epistle reading from 2nd Corinthians.
Brethren, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever." He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. – 2 Corinthians 2.9-16
There is no compulsion in love. He wants for us to choose the third reason for doing good. He wants us to love, and acts of love have no resentment, no entitlement, no competition, no indignation, and most definitely no selfishness. As St Paul reminds us today, God will always provide us with “enough for everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” The abundance that God may or may not provide to us, is not for our benefit, but so that we can bless others.
This is expressed beautifully in the Orthodox Wedding service. “Fill their houses with bountiful food, and with every good thing, that they may have to give to them that are in need.” This prayer for the couple, read during the Crowing Service, reminds not only the bride and groom, but all those in attendance, that our blessings are for a purpose. That purpose is to show love to others. Just as newlyweds shower each other with acts of kindness, simply because they love each other, we are asked to shower our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and even enemies with acts of kindness.
If you are afraid you won’t have enough love to give, ask God and He will provide you “in abundance” so you can focus on reason three. Be committed to doing good because you love, and God will always make sure you have enough to go around.