God Who Repays According to Each Man’s Deeds
“Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.”
Mark 6:21-29 NKJV
John the Baptist criticized King Herod because Herod had taken his brother’s wife for himself. John rebuked Herod for that, and Herodias, his brother’s wife wanted Herod dead. Herod was her brother-in-law, but he did what was unlawful to her. Despite what he did, she became the queen as a result. So it turned out good for her. Yet when John the Baptist rebuked Herod, he had a conflict in his mind because he regarded John as a righteous and holy man. It would not have mattered if the king just ignored John, but seeing Herod in anguish, Herodias also felt anxious.
So, she hated John the Baptist. She wanted to find a way to have him killed. She wanted John beheaded, and although he was put in prison, nothing else was done to him. Then, an opportune time came. Her daughter went in and danced for the king, probably like a belly dance. Herod, being drunk and in a great mood, promised to give her anything she asked. He proudly promised in front of everyone to give even half the kingdom. The girl was quite clever. She knew what her mother wanted and quickly ran to her mother asking what she should say. So the mother seized the opportunity and told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter straight away. When the girl said that, Herod was distressed, but as the king, he could not take back his words in front of those many people. Though he was distraught, he commanded John to be beheaded.
So John’s head was brought on a platter. How gruesome. And how disgraceful is it? Death itself is miserable, but to be beheaded to death is a most wretched death. It is as wretched as Jesus’ crucifixion. When his head was placed on the platter, it would have been soaked in blood, and his eyes wide open. So what would be left of his honor, if any? It is such a miserable and humiliating death. Perhaps dying on the cross would at least look better. When his head was brought in on the platter with his eyes wide open like a dead fish and blood all over, imagine how much the people would have ridiculed and scorned him. And after the girl took it to her mother, nobody knew what she might have done with it since John was her enemy.
In such a terrible manner, John’s life was ended. If we were to pick out some people who died in the most horrible manner, they would include Jesus Christ, John the Baptist and others.
But what kind of man was he? He is among the few people whom God personally gave the name of at birth. ‘He will be called John.’ And before he was even born, he was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. He was a great one who was prepared, especially by God to make the path ready for Jesus Christ, the Son of God to come.
Many people had been on this earth, yet Jesus himself said that no one was greater than John. No one born of woman is greater than he, Jesus said. He surpasses even us who believe in Jesus. In terms of the flesh, among those born of a woman, that is, out of all the people that ever existed before and after Jesus, he is the greatest and righteous; he is more righteous than us.
But the reason we are greater than him in heaven is because we are born again. We are born of the Holy Spirit from heaven, which is why we are greater. But in terms of the flesh, out of those born of a woman, there is no one greater than him.
If that is the case, if he was chosen by God and cared by God, how come he was met with such a death? Wouldn’t he feel betrayed? He had worked all his life for God, and he never got to eat anything tasty during his lifetime. He ate wild honey, which is found between rocks. That honey is not easily obtained; he had to fight the bees and get rid of them to get honey, and he ate locusts. He did not have a home but lived in the desert. He lived that way all his life until Jesus Christ came; he was honored by all men, did not even fear the king but spoke the word of God and even rebuked him. Yet, when he finally saw Jesus Christ come, as soon as he baptized Him, he was put in prison. And then he was beheaded. Because he had much work for God, the people, especially his disciples, expected he would get a chance to enjoy his life in his latter years. But when he finished his task, he was gone just like that.
For some people, they may feel a sense of betrayal if that happened to them, as though they were exploited. There is a Korean saying, “Kill the dog after the hunting season.” Have you heard it before? It means that once the rabbit is caught, the dog is killed and eaten. The dog is let loose to catch rabbits. The dog is very useful for that. But when many rabbits are caught as the hunter desired, what happens to the dog? The dog is no longer needed and, therefore, killed and eaten. So this saying is similar to one being used like a tissue and thrown away after. It means that a thing or person gets used while they are useful for a purpose. Then, when the goal is achieved, they are disposed of rather than rewarded. In the dog’s instance, the owner does not even hesitate but kills it to eat it for his own good. Hence, this saying is used to describe anyone who is exploited and then disposed of.
Think about John the Baptist. He is just like the hunting dog, isn’t he? Some people work in the church but complain that they are being exploited like a hunting dog. I actually heard somebody say that to me. There is a difference between the words to be used and to be exploited. If I say I am used by God, it sounds nice. But when I say I am exploited, it does not feel nice. To exploit someone is to use that person for my own profit, whereas to use someone is to give instructions to him or her to do something. So, am I exploited or used? If someone is exploited, there is no reward. The person who exploits him uses him for his own gain, and that is it. Hence, the sense of betrayal there. It is like a hunting dog. But when you are used by someone, the master may reward that person afterwards. That is why the connotations of the two words are different.
Some people say that they were exploited after working for the church and working for God. They say they were treated like hunting dogs put down. A certain missionary worked very hard but later on said, “I was too naive. I didn’t know what the world was like. I was very ignorant in the past and did whatever I was told, but I was exploited.” And he left the church.
But if that is what he says, look at the Bible. Is there anyone who did not do that? Jesus Christ – the Son of God, the most beloved One of God, came and worked all his life for God but finally died on the cross. His life was like the hunting dog. What about Peter? Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and Peter followed in the hopes of something good, but ultimately he was crucified upside down. Again, like that hunting dog. Paul also worked all his life for the Lord, but he was also martyred, just like the hunting dog. Stephen preached so devotedly, but in the end, he was stoned to death. Again, like that hunting dog. So, who in the Bible did not do that?
The analogy of the hunting dog that I have been talking about is so in the eyes of faithless people when they see the people who work for God. To them, those people were exploited. But we who have faith do not perceive it that way. It is not like putting down a hunting dog. God’s nature is far from doing such a thing. His nature is nothing like it.
So then, why do people think that God does such a thing? Their perception is fixated on this world. This world will perish and soon disappear. God sent us humans into this world for hard work. He sent us into this place ruled by the devil so that we work here. If our eyes can only see this world, it does appear as though all we are doing is work and then die. It is like the life of the hunting dog. But take off the veil above us and look up. What do we see up there? We can see heaven. We see the kingdom of heaven. That is the eternal kingdom. Everything we gain in this world is finite, but when we take off the veil above us and go to heaven, what we will gain is everlasting. God is not seeking to give us the rewards on this earth but rather everlasting rewards.
Thus, in this world, we cannot see the reward. Even if God rewarded men in the past, they were given as patterns and types of true reward. Even so, those rewards are going to perish anyway. God is not satisfied with it. The reward He wants to give is everlasting, not something that will decay and disappear. On this earth, however, we cannot see those rewards. Instead, it seems as though we just die after working. But when we take off this veil, we will see that what we sowed was perishable, but we will reap the imperishable. That is what we are promised.
No matter how much of our life we devote, it will be 70 years at most. By dedicating just 70 years, how great a glory will we reap? It is everlasting glory. We sow with perishable things and reap the imperishable. We sow the trivial things and reap what is everlasting. We dedicate petty amounts of money and gain great treasures in heaven. Though we dedicate our whole life on this earth, it is not that many hours – maybe hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands. That is all. But in heaven, we will be given an unending, uncountable time of happiness eternally. When we consider that, we are certainly not being disposed like a hunting dog, nor are we being exploited.
If we are working before God and in the church, and we think we are being exploited or treated like a hunting dog, it is because we have not any hope. We have not any faith. It is because we fail to see all the way to the eternal kingdom. But while Stephen was stoned to death, he did not complain, “How can you dispose of me like a useless dog?” Rather, he looked up to heaven. He saw the Lord stand up and welcomed him along with the glory that was prepared for him. Thus, he rejoiced, and his face shone so that he even blessed his killers.
If, while working in the church, we say, “How can the church do this to me? Is the church treating me like a used tissue?” it means we do not have hope, faith or heaven in our hearts. If we are filled with hope in heaven, it would not matter, even if we had a hard time working in this world and just died.
I determined myself like this. That on this earth, I will be used like a hunting dog, that is, in the eyes of the people of the world. Even if I get used by the church and was to die, that is okay. That is our duty anyway. If he uses me only, and that is it, that is okay. I am supposed to be used. I know that. So I actually want to go to him that I am serving and tell him, “Please use me however you like. And use me without feeling sorry for me at all. Just use me.” I know that is my calling and duty. So I want to tell him that. I want to be used like a hunting dog. But there is an everlasting reward waiting for us.
God does not use somebody and then just dispose of them. Even with a bruised reed, what does He do? People use reeds to make baskets by weaving them, right? But let’s say the reed is bruised. What would people do? They would throw it out because it is useless. But with God, He does not break the bruised reed but fixes it to use it. And even with a smouldering wick, we would probably just blow it out and use a new one. Yet, God does not put out a smouldering wick; He uses it still. It is written that He does not put out a smouldering wick. In the Bible, it says that God was not pleased with the men who had married the wives of their youth but later dealt treacherously with them and divorced them. He said that even God made only one spirit, though He has a remnant of the spirit so that through that one spirit, the way for the Son of God would be prepared. And even when man became a sinner, God did not forsake man and create another spirit to take into heaven. Even God did not make two spirits. So He rebuked those men, saying, “Why do you seek a younger woman and abandon the wife of your youth who has borne the hard times with you, now that she is old and wrinkly while you are rich and living the life?” He rebuked them for what they did, saying that even God Himself did not do that.
This shows what our God is like. He does not despise those who toiled hard but surely rewards them. Even Jesus said that if anyone gives a cup of water to His disciples because they are His disciples, he will certainly not lose his reward. When saying this, He said, “Truly, truly I tell you,” and “Certainly.” In other words, He will not even forget a cup of water that one gives. He also said at the end of Revelation, “I will repay each person according to what he has done.” He repeatedly says at the end of Revelation that He will repay each person according to his deeds. So, who is our Lord? He never exploits us. He uses us. And He certainly repays according to one’s deeds.
As you work with certain people, you realize that some just exploiting you for their own benefit while others use you. People that exploit have no concerns for you. They only care for their own profit, which means they are unperturbed about disposing of you when you become useless to them. But God is not like that. He surely looks after you and rewards you even with a cup of water you gave. Regarding the works we do on this earth, we should not think that we are exploited by the church and so on. If we think like that, we will have nothing because that is what we believed.
For any work that we do, we must remember there is a reward and gratefully do it in hope. I bless you in Jesus’ name. That is why we have to know our God. We should not misunderstand Him. Let us pray that we may know God and ask to be filled with the hope of heaven. Let’s pray.
I said earlier that John the Baptist was the most holy, right? He was born with a purpose. After preparing the way for Jesus, he immediately died. He never used his life for anything else. In India, there is a mausoleum called the ‘Taj Mahal,’ and do you know what happened to the workers who built it after completing it? They cut off their hands when they returned home. Because after building a sacred place for the king, the most magnificent and holy structure, they could not use their hands to build anything else. They could not build a toilet or a house with those hands. They said, ‘Only for the king, let your hands be used,’ and so they cut off their hands. Instead, they were provided with all they needed for their entire lives and took care of their families. They lived without those hands. How much more holy are those who are consecrated for God? John the Baptist, after doing his work, died because there was nothing else to do with his life. It is not pitiful; it is holy.
So, make my life truly holy. When people see it, they may think it is pitiful and insignificant, but when viewed with spiritual eyes, let me be seen as truly holy. Let us pray once again.
Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for using us in the work of God. We also thank you for promising us rewards and grateful for the promise, ‘He will reward each according to his works.’ Let us open our eyes to heavenly perspectives and fill our spirits with the joy derived from serving on this earth. Guide us to become more holy and lead us on the path where our souls are filled. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on December 7, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team