“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)
Is it true that we are selfish and not loving if we are motivated by the promised reward? If so, why did Jesus entice us by mentioning the reward, even giving it as the basis (“for”) of our action?
And what would a commentator say concerning Luke 12:33, where we are not told that reward will result from our giving alms, but we are told to actively seek to get the reward — “provide yourselves with moneybags”?
And what would he say concerning the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward (Luke 16:1–13), where Jesus concludes, “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (16:9)?
The aim of this parable is to instruct the disciples in the right and loving use of worldly possessions. Jesus does not say that the result of such use is to receive eternal dwellings. He says to make it your aim to secure an eternal dwelling by the use of your possessions.
So it is simply wrong to say that Jesus does not want us to pursue the reward he promises. He commands us to pursue it (Luke 12:33; 16:9). More than forty times in the Gospel of Luke there are promises of reward and threats of punishment connected with the commands of Jesus. Of course, we must not seek the reward of earthly praise or material gain.
This is clear not only from Luke 14:14, but also from Luke 6:35, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. ” In other words, don’t care about earthly reward; look to the heavenly reward — namely, the infinite joys of being a son of God!
Or, as Jesus put it in Matthew 6:3–4, don’t care about human praise for your merciful acts. If that is your goal, that’s all you will get, and it will be a pitiful reward compared to the reward of God.
“When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”