Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
Rewards are not gifts. They are entitlements, ‘recompenses for service or merit’. Gifts are, well, gifts – free and unmerited. So there is a difference: some of the things we receive from God are rewards, which we earn, as stated in verse 8; some are gifts or charisma (gift of grace), like eternal life, gifts of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, even marriage/singlehood.
But what if we are confused between gifts and rewards? What if some of the things that we are supposed to receive with open hands as gifts we mistaken as rewards to earn? Then we would be blaming ourselves for not working hard enough to deserve those things that we want when actually they are meant to be given. And what if we want a ‘gift exchange’ because we don’t like what God has given?
As my thoughts stayed on the last question, I was reminded of the poem ‘the Thorn‘ which I posted just about this time last year. Rereading it, the love of God was my comfort because, as described in the poem, God gives His best gifts to us. And in the end it is so that we would receive more grace from Him and to know Him most intimately.
I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.