If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Matthew 5:46-47
“DUH!” When my grandkids get old enough to be aware & communicative of obvious things, I’ll sometimes say “duh” to them when we are kidding around and they say something with an obvious conclusion. More often than not, they’ll already have said that to me about the same subject or something else. That usually elicits “duh” being the response to everything I say.
Get this: in a way, that’s what Jesus was saying to those listening to this part of the Sermon on the Mount. “Duh! I mean, really? Even the people you look down on do the things you want to pat yourself on the back for. Don’t you get it?”
There’s so much packed into Jesus’ line of reasoning here. First, He is reasoning. He isn’t overtly convicting people of their sins; He’s content to let His words do that (so that said people might repent). Jesus is presenting common-sense arguments to support a radical idea. Nobody had ever proposed “love your enemies” and Jesus’ words here say, “I’m not talking about loving the folks you know. I’m talking about loving “them.”” That same argument is still persuasive, even to us several thousand years later.
And, He asks the question, “what is the reward for love?” The crowd knew what it felt like to have someone love them, but, here, Jesus was asking them if that was reward enough. Just before this, He had said that we should love our enemies so that God the Father might better persuade us of His forgiving love. What is the real reward for love? God. God is the reward because God is the ultimate love, the source of all love, the only real love in the universe.
What’s more, Jesus is employing a little bit of shaming here. He specifically mentions tax collectors and pagans: people who were at the lowest social and political strata in Judean Jewish culture. The Jews looked down on tax collectors and unbelievers. Where possible, they would have nothing to do with them. Tell me: was Jesus talking to the people on the hillside around Him, or was He talking to you and me? Duh!
After all, His words appeal to us through reason. The love of God is still ultimately the thing for which we all yearn. And we still look down on others not like us. Jesus’ timeless questions were designed to be that way, and thank (Him) that He did this. Otherwise, we might miss the most obvious things. Duh!
For more reading: Luke 6:32, Matthew 5:48
Lord, thank You for pointing out these things in teaching us of how the Father loves. And how we should love others.