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One-a-Day...for the Heart: Payback

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people (1 Thessalonians 5:15 NLT). God’s borrowing and lending system cuts into our carnality and sets a standard that will make us more like Jesus if we cooperate.

Whether it’s money or acts of service, the Lord’s approach to giving and getting is very different than man’s. The world’s system demands payback of even the smallest amount of money borrowed, adding interest to ensure a profitable gain for lending. Likewise, rewards and payback are often expected in return for the smallest favor or service offered. I’ll wash your back; you wash mine expresses the give-to-get mentality of the world.

Jesus warned us about becoming greedy and loving money and things in Luke 12:15 (ESV), when He said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” The Message translation makes it a little clearer: Speaking to the people, He went on, "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot." Regarding lending money and financial substance, the Lord tells us to lend without expecting a payback. That’s how He does business with His kids. How much money did any of us pay for our salvation and the promise of eternal life with Christ? Zero dollars, zero sacrifices. His salvation is entirely free.

Aside from monetary lending, Christ’s standard of giving is also spelled out for ministry. “Freely you have received; freely give,” Christ said to us in Matthew 10:8, as He taught about the attitude we should have toward helping others. "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay."

Being a Christian means being a servant—one who looks for ways to lighten another’s load, help the poor, encourage the downtrodden, etc. Humility and generosity are at the heart of such a person. Those characteristics are at the heart of God, too, who personifies love, kindness, compassion, and generosity. Even if He tried, the Lord couldn’t be stingy or greedy, for He is altogether lovely and good.

Have you ever wasted a perfectly good smile on someone? The usual response when someone smiles is to smile back. When a smile is not returned, I make it a point to keep trying every time I see the sourpuss until they crack a smile. One such person took months to crack, and I wasted a lot of good smiles on the person…or so I thought. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other. Though I wasn’t looking for a payback, I got one—more than just a smile, too, for we now exchange pleasant greetings, nods, and conversations.

Let the Lord determine the payback. His judgments are true and righteous. If evil is done to us, God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well, we read in 2 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV). When we feel wronged, cheated, betrayed, or used, Romans 12:19-21 (NLT) tells us, Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord. Instead, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads. Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."

Why not go out and waste a few smiles today? Give something away free of charge. As we sense a surge of evil in the world, let’s conquer it by doing good. "I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never — I promise — regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind" (Luke 6:35-36 The Message).

© 2023, Chris Custer Werre

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