As a mother, i am accustomed to the “reward” system. The system that rewards the desired behavior of my children: if you clean your room, if you do your homework, if you taste the new food, you will be allowed to watch tv or play video games. Each child is motivated differently: one loves to play video games, another loves to stay up later, and yet another loves to have play dates with friends. Children are motivated by rewards.
You may call that bribery but I prefer to call it rewarding…
OK so it seems I bribe my children!
God cannot be bribed to behave as we want. I’ve been reading this year from the book of Genesis and my reading brought me to the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau was the firstborn of the two and in their culture, they firstborn had many rights that subsequent children didn’t enjoy. Jacob grew to envy his brother’s firstborn status and eventually stole his brother’s birthright from him.
While Jacob was wrong in wanting the birthright, Esau didn’t value what he had:
Genesis 25:34b ESV “…Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
The story goes that Esau was hungry for some stew Jacob made, and the condition (reward) to receive the stew was for Esau to give his birthright to Jacob, which he apparently did without much arm-twisting.
Thus began Jacob’s career as a successful conniver. Time went by and Jacob, in deceiving his own father, stole from Esau something much more valuable: his father’s blessing. Esau became angry and Jacob left to avoid conflict with his brother.
Jacob had been so successful in achieving what he did through bribery and deception that he thought God could be bribed:
Genesis 28:20-22 ESV “If God be with me and keep me in this way that I go…I will give a full tenth…”
What did Jacob think? That God actually needed his tithe? God didn’t need his tithe as a motivation to be with Jacob. Even in Jacob’s corrupted state, God was ready to be with him and didn’t need his tithe as a bribe or motivation to do so. Jacob had imposed on God the same standard of conduct that he had seen work with his family. The difference with God is that His love isn’t bought by condition, reward or bribe. What can any one of us possibly have that God needs and is willing to trade for a blessing?
Nothing I do can motivate God to want to be with me more – if I’m doing well or poorly, God wants to be with me and He wants to bless me. This year, I’m not going to try to be good so I will be blessed – God, my Father, already is on standby to bless me. No strings attached.