Turn in your Bibles, if you haven’t already, to Luke 6:32. Luke 6:32. We’re gonna be looking this morning at some extremely penetrating and searching words from our Lord Jesus Christ, here in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke 6:32-35. Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good. And lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
It’s become common, I think, among many Christians these days, and in fact this is such a common thing that we’re hardly able to discern the fact that we seem to make every effort as Christians to understate what makes us distinctly Christian. At one level, I think it’s understandable, and maybe even commendable. We come into an evangelistic encounter where we tell an unbeliever with whom we’re sharing the Gospel, “Look, friend, I’m no different than you are.”
We all understand what we’re trying to say. We, what we mean by that is that we are, like them, sinners. We’re merely emphasizing at that moment the sameness of all people before the Cross. And in comparison to a holy God who is perfect, spotless, we’re not. And the different measure or way it may appear on a human scale of what our sin looks like in comparison to other people, before a holy and infinite God, that really is an unremarkable set of differences. To be really no different at all. After all, Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “All” includes me and you. That’s what we say when we talk to sinners. We don’t want that unbelieving person to think that we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, and that’s a good instinct. To see the ground level at the Cross. We all are there kneeling before Christ.
But on another level, I think that by deemphasizing the differences that truly exist between believers and unbelievers, we may become inadvertently guilty of denying what is clear and obvious to unbelievers. Encouraging them even to come to false conclusions about what explains our behavior in contradistinction to theirs. About what makes us so very different from them. What makes us live differently, think differently, have different ambitions. What causes us to order our lives differently.
If we’re not careful, unbelievers, with all of our tendency to want to minimize those differences, say, “Look, I’m no different than you,” they may wanna say, “Well, I guess he’s just a more disciplined person. Uh, had a better upbringing. Um, really nice parents. No dysfunction in the family,” or whatever they come to conclude.
Sometimes I think that (and this comes from more than, I guess, maybe looking back on my salvation, about 25 years of observation as a Christian, and asking myself about the motivation that Christians have to deemphasize Christian distinctiveness, to profess themselves to be no better than the world), sometimes I wonder if it’s really that many Christians aren’t living any better than the world. Rather than humble themselves before God, repent of unrighteous living, pursue obedience of the true faith in the fear of the Lord, many would rather hold onto their sin and comfortable non-distinct lives and avoid hypocrisy at all costs, and say, “Look, I’m no different than you, my unbelieving friend.”
Rather than repent, rather than pursue holiness in the fear of Christ, they’d rather just say, “Look, we’re all the, really the same. The only difference between me and you is that I’m redeemed and you’re not. And I wa, really want you to know Jesus Christ.” That’s a, that’s a good thing, but, if there really is no difference between you and that unbelieving friend of yours, if that’s true, if what you feel and think and how you live your life is really no different than the way they do theirs, then that’s a really serious problem, isn’t it? God isn’t pleased with that. Because it is our Christian behavior that is to be distinct. And it’s supposed to be unique. It’s supposed to be something that’s distinct and utterly foreign to all unbelieving sentiment. Something strange to all unbelieving judgment. They are to look at our lives and see something markedly and remarkably, humanly unexplainable about the way we live.
In fact, that is what causes unbelievers to take notice of Christ in us in the first place, right? As Peter puts it, 1 Peter 3:15-16, we need to be “always ready to,” what? “make a defense to anyone who does,” what? “asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you.” Yet we’re to do it “with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that when we’re slandered” by other people, “those who revile our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
How do they see the hope by which we live, the hope that’s hidden within us, the hope that’s invisible to them, motivations, things like thoughts and motivations and intentions of the heart, how do they see that? How is it visible? They see it the way we live, right? They see it in our “good behavior in Christ,” as Peter puts it. We s, live and speak differently than they do. And the unbelieving world is supposed to take notice of that. We’re not to look like they look. We’re not to be driven by the same ambitions. We’re not to have the same desires and take pleasure in the same things.
There are many passages in the New Testament, in addition to what Peter said, that make the same point, and I’d like to return, just very quickly, to that book of Titus that we just read for Scripture reading. And start in Titus chapter 1. I just want to survey a couple of things that Paul tells Pastor Titus, this short little pastoral letter, and just see for ourselves how Paul exhorts Pastor Titus to teach believers to live differently. To live distinctly than the culture around them. And it’s not for the sake of pride. It is for the sake of the glory of God, that sinners might be saved.
We’ll start with Titus 1:10. Paul points out the cultural context of Titus’ pastoral ministry. Titus 1:10. He says, “There are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they’re upsetting whole families by teaching, for shameful gain, what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own,” (‘member Titus was ministering on the Isle of Crete), “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” That’s a depraved culture. I mean, we could write the same thing about America, right? “Always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
In view of the surrounding culture, in the context of Titus’ ministry there, does Paul encourage Titus to tell Christians to emphasize their sameness with the Cretans? “Look fellow Cretan, I’m just like you. Just like you, I’m a liar, evil beast, lazy glutton too, but that’s what makes the Gospel so great. It saves wretches just like you and me.” That may be true. But that’s not what we’re to emphasize.
Look at verse 13. Paul says, “This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” He doesn’t say, “Look, the Gospel reaches out to everybody, and we’re all liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. And isn’t it wonderful that the grace of God is so magnanimous and large to bring us all in underneath its, the shadow of the wings of Christ?” Says, that’s true, yes. But it must change your life. “Rebuke them sharply, that they may” not be that way, but may be, instead “be sound in the faith.”
And that’s why, if you look back at Titus 1:5-9, Paul told Titus to appoint men to eldership who are of high character, high moral character, consistent Christian living. It takes men of strong, consistent Christian character both to model and then to teach other Christians what godliness looks like. What being “sound in the faith” looks like. You skip ahead to what we already read, it’s Chapter 2 verse 1. Paul tells Titus, and he tells Timothy the same kinds of things, and so all of us as pastors, we’re to teach the older Christian men, and we’re to teach the older Christian women about the behavior appropriate to their age, to their station in life, their responsibilities. Younger Christian women, younger Christian men, likewise. Slaves in relation to masters as well. All of them have to know how to behave and how to act. They didn’t get it from their upbringing, they didn’t get it from their culture. None of that counts. They have to have a revealed culture from Scripture.
“Our Christian behavior is to be distinct.”Travis Allen
In whatever our situation or circumstance, we’re to conduct ourselves in Christian dignity and in Christian virtue for the sake of our Christian testimony, so that, as it says in Titus 2 verse 5, “that the Word of God may not be reviled.” Or as it says in verse 8, “so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” We’re to live godly, exemplary lives so that, verse 10, “in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Why? Because, verse 11, we’ll read it again, “Because the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions;” that is, the things in our life that don’t look like God. We need to renounce that. Any of the motivations and desires and drives, the worldly passions, those things that animate us and get us up in the morning and push us forward. We need to renounce that too.
How are we to live? Let’s keep reading, “to live self- controlled lives, upright lives, godly lives in the present age, as we wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Our hopes is not wrapped up in this world. It’s not wrapped up in stuff. It’s not wrapped up in our work life. It’s not even, for that part, wrapped up in our home life. As much as we love our families, as much as we have to work, our hope is in the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Why? Because we, we love him. “He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession, who’re zealous for good works.”
So Titus is a faithful pastor. It’s his sworn duty to Christ, by way of this Apostolic injunction, Titus 2:15, he is to “declare these things,” he is to “exhort,” and to “rebuke with all authority.” In fact, Pastor Titus is to do this and “let no one disregard” him in these matters of vital importance.
Paul keeps going. Look at Chapter 3 verses 1-2. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, and be gentle and show the perfect courtesy toward all people.” He is describing here, if I could put it this way, non-Cretan behavior. Uh, non-American behavior. This is un-American, right? He’s not describing any culture in the world. He’s describing behavior that is so utterly distinct, so fundamentally opposite of the culture around us, that the culture around us can’t help but take notice of that behavior and wonder, “Why the difference? What makes you different?” And quite the contrary to our sense of modern evangelical sensitivity to make the sinner feel comfortable in our presence.
We’re not to. It’s not our job to make them feel comfortable. Holiness, whether it’s the holiness of God, before God, or the Holiness of God that is resident within us as we live a holy life, it makes people feel uncomfortable. Holiness repels some, and it attracts others. We’re to live in such a way that they see the difference. They actually feel somewhat uncomfortable in our presence.
One more verse. Skip to the end, there, we just read this. “This saying is trustworthy. I want you to, y, insist on these things,” Verse 8, “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” Good works.
It’s not legalism, it’s not Pharisaism to insist on good works. “Things that are excellent and profitable for all people.” That’s how we’re to live. That’s the behavior that is to mark the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. The non-Christian world should see our good works, in fact, as Jesus said, Matthew 5:16, and have no other choice but to give glory to our Father who is in Heaven. In other words, the only power that should be able to provide an adequate explanation for the lives that we live is divine power. Heavenly power. God’s power.
So lemme ask you a, a challenging question at this point. Even before we get into the text, you can actually turn back to Luke Chapter 6, which is making the same point, really. But here’s the question we need to ask: Does your life look any different than, let’s say, the most moral of the unbelievers around you? Does your life look any different than the most moral unbelievers around you? Friends, family, neighbors. Maybe they’re moral non-Christians, irreligious non-Christians. Or maybe they’re false professors of a lesser Christianity. They’ve believed another gospel, a lesser gospel, a, a non gospel. And they’re religious. They attend church but they’re really not Christian, they’re, they’re spiritual in this day and age, spiritual but not religious. Or maybe they’re even outright atheistic, but still moral. Do they see, do those people see a marked difference between the way you live and the way they live? The way you think and the way they think, and the way everybody else that they know thinks?
Do you stand out? Does your behavior, the way you live, the way you speak, is it prompting questions from the unbelieving world? Is it drawing attention, or is your life and behavior and speech rather unremarkable, rather easily explained, as people see in you a mirror of themselves? That they can interpret any of your morality, may, with the same explanation that they see the motivation for their own morality. “Chalk it up to human effort. Normal human pursuit of moral goodness, altruistic motives.”
Are you living a covert Christian life which is indistinguishable from other moral people who live around you? Because if you look again at Luke 6:32-35, we’re gonna see that Jesus is drawing attention to that which makes us truly different. What makes us uniquely distinct from the, not just the unbelieving world, but the very best of the unbelieving world. It’s nothing less than our witness to the glory of the Most High that’s at stake.
So let’s begin our exposition this morning with, uh, pointing out this and number one (and this is gonna be verses 32-34. You can write this down in your notes): Reciprocal love is not Christian love. Reciprocal love is not Christian love. That is to say, the ethic of reciprocity, by which the most moral of our time, and the most moral of any time, the ethic of reciprocity, by which they measure what is good and bad, what is just and injust, unjust: that’s not distinctively Christian. Measuring up to the most moral unbeliever in our behavior, that behavior is not worthy of the name “Christian.”
Let’s consider carefully what Jesus said in verses 32-34 because, let’s face it, as we read those verses, this is how most of us live, right? This is how most of us think about loving others most of the time. This is our normal experience. And it’s not that it’s bad, it’s good. But it’s not distinctively Christian. Verse 32, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?”
Let’s stop at this point and add a brief but a, but an important footnote before we keep reading. The word that’s translated in the ESV “Benefit,” it’s the word charis, which is more familiar to us translated as “grace.” Of the 262 times that the root of that word is found in the New Testament, whether it’s in the, one of the noun forms like charis, charitas, charisma, eucaristia; or in one of the verbal forms like charizomai, or eucharisteo, it’s not translated in most of those 262 illustrations as “benefit,” except for here. There is a Greek word translated “benefit.” There’s actually two of them, two Greek words, verbs, ōpheléō, and onínēmi, but the, but the word Jesus used here, he could have chosen those words, but he didn’t. He uses this word charis. Charis. And the ESV translated it as “benefit.” The NAS uses the word “credit.” And I, the translation isn’t necessarily wrong, but I believe we should stick with the root idea of charis to get the meaning very clear for us.
The familiar term “grace,” rather than “benefit,” really does clarify what Jesus is actually saying here, and what he actually means by what he says. If we give a short definition to charis or grace, we’d say grace is unmerited favor. Refers to the unmerited favor of God, manifests, it manifests his pleasure. It manifests, grace manifests his favorable disposition toward us, his positive, beneficent action on our behalf. That’s grace. The word charis can refer to something qualitative as an attitude or a disposition, but also something more concrete and quantifiable like, “gift,” like the gift of salvation is called “the grace of God,” or a, a, a gift, a spiritual gift by which we serve each other; an ability, an enabling power, that’s also grace.
In the New Testament, whenever human beings are recipients of God’s charis, the word charis refers to the grace of God, refers to divine favor. It can refer to the thing that signifies the grace of God, as in salvation, or a gift of his grace, a spiritual gift. Whenever, on the other hand, whenever God is the object of this word charis, we are the ones who give charis to God, but we’re not giving him any grace or favor or some gift. It’s, we translate that actually as “give thanks to God.” Same word, charis, but we translate it “thanks” when we give it back to God. And when, when we use that charis, we use that word charis and we aim it at God, it’s “Thanksgiving.” We don’t grace God, but we give thanks to God in response to his grace. See the difference?
So as we can see in these verses, Luke 6:32-34, when Jesus poses this rhetorical question, “What charis is that to you?” he’s talking about the reward or favor of God. And notice the direction. It’s not Godward, it’s us-ward. Charis is not coming from us up to God, which would be thanks, but rather it’s coming to us. “What charis is that to you?” Jesus asks. Over in the parallel account in Matthew 5:46, Jesus (basically in the same context, same section), he asked the same question, but with a slightly different phrasing. He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” The w, word for “reward” there is misthos, the same word Jesus uses in Luke 6:35. “Your reward” (your misthos) will be great.”
Back here in Luke 6:32, back to reading the text, when Jesus asked his disciples this rhetorical question, verse 32, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?” he’s not asking them to consider how this benefits them, appealing to some motive of self-interest in their behavior. He’s asking them to consider how the kind of love that they practice demonstrates the grace of God in their lives. Very different reading, wouldn’t you say? This isn’t a matter of personal benefit. Which is what Jesus is saying, this is how the unbelievers think, this is how the sinners think. It’s a matter of pleasing God, which is how Christians think. We are hardwired to want to be well-pleasing to God by virtue of the fact that we’re new creations in Christ. We love to see God’s grace active in our lives, working through us, most especially in this matter of loving other people. This is how believers think. This is what motivates us. This is what marks the difference between a believer and an unbeliever.
There is a rich and great reward for believers here, but we’re gonna get to that in a moment. For now, let’s read those verses again, but with the knowledge that that word “benefit” is the word “grace,” and it sounds a little awkward, but I’m just gonna read it that way to keep it clear, OK? Verse 32, “If you love those who love you, what grace [what favor] is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what grace [what favor] is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what grace [what favor] is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.”
Loving those who love us. Doing good to those who have done good to us. Lending to those from whom we expect to receive full payment (and the word is “payment with interest”), this is how we live our lives most of the time. It’s not a bad way to live, as I said, it’s, it’s a good way. But it’s not, in and of itself, commendable as distinctly Christian. It is not, in and of itself, commendable as being motivated and driven by love. It’s merely being driven by self-interest.
Loving those who love us, doing good to those who do good to us, lending to those from whom we expect to be repaid; living that way requires no grace from God to accomplish it. It’s rather unremarkable because this is the way the entire world works. This is quid pro quo behavior. This is, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back.” It’s the ethic of reciprocity in a nutshell. Doing for others, banking on the fact that others are gonna reciprocate, that they’re gonna respond to us in kind. That’s the way the world works. That’s the way nations work with each other. That’s the way companies and corporations work with each other. That’s the way everything works.
In fact, as Jesus points out, even the worst of sinners live this way. The word “sinners,” it’s the word hamartoloi. It’s a personalized form of the noun for “sin.” “Hamartia” is the word for “sin,” and those who are characterized by hamartina are called hamartoloi. They are sinners. Sin so distinguishes their behavior before God, or their character, that they are, by definition, sinners.
This is a category of people, though, in the context of the reading, those who heard it, when they heard the word “sinners,” they didn’t think of themselves, naturally. They thought of “that guy.” They thought of “that lady”, right? They thought of the lowest of the low, the dregs of society. In fact, over in the parallel account, Matthew records Jesus’ more concrete expressions. Luke uses the all-encompassing word “sinners.” You could even look at, uh, verse 35 at the very end there, where God defines the sinners as those who are “the ungrateful and the evil.” Sinners.
But before the Jews, Jesus said, he used more concrete terms that they understood. To them the tax collectors and the Gentiles were the very worst of sinners. If you add prostitutes to the mix, you get the wholly unholy triumvirate of Gentiles, tax collectors, and prostitutes. The very worst of the worst. But listen. Even gentiles, even tax collectors, even prostitutes, in general, when people show love to them, do good to them, lend to them, they generally respond in kind. They reciprocate the good. They do the same thing in return. Why do they do that? For one reason, they reciprocate to maintain a good standing with others, to keep the benefits coming. There’s self-interest involved. And, for another reason unrecognized to them, their conscience tells them they ought to reciprocate. They can’t stand to let people continue to do good to them and do nothing in re, in return. They know they ought to do something.
So on one level, reciprocation is just a matter of moral obligation for them. Informed by their God-given conscience, even the worst of sinners can muster up enough sense of moral obligation to return a favor done to them. But on another level, and on a baser level, on a, on a level that reveals sinfulness, the response of reciprocation for them is just a matter of personal interest, gaining favor, meriting more good outcomes, guaranteeing more good for the future. Good deeds done to others who do good to us.
Think about us as Christians. Oh, not these “bad sinners.” No, us Christians. Loving people back, returning good, lending to them in return. It’s a good thing, but it’s not worthy of commendation. It’s just the normal way people respond to those who treat them well. And yet, how often do we find that those of us who live this way, by this ethic of reciprocity, we consider our behavior as worthy of commendation, don’t we? Even Christians, even us. We count ourselves, by living this way, as moral, upstanding, exercising the highest virtue for which we deserve recognition, simply for loving those who love us. In fact, we can even tend to keep mental notes on what has or has not been done for us. In return for our magnanimous expressions of love and kindness, what’s been done back? We even tend to resent it when our good deeds are not reciprocated by favors, by return-in-kind.
Look, in view of the unreciprocated favor that God pours out on all humanity every single day, and us included; any resentment for unrequited love toward others, not only is it unwarranted, but our record-keeping becomes, in view of that, pretty petty. Small-minded. Frankly, it’s pretty silly. Because anything that we give out to others has been given to us first. By whom? By God. We’re only shuffling his stuff around. We think we deserve credit for that. What Jesus is saying here is that we’re no different than any other sinner in the world, when that’s, when that’s the highest extent of our love. The most moral people in the world rise no higher in their ethics than the very worst of sinners, making them all the same. Nothing worthy of commendation, and therefore nothing worthy of the name “Christian.”
I find this, a lot of you probably do too, in evangelistic conversations. How have you ever done this? You’ve asked, you asked somebody if they consider themselves to be a good person, what do they say? Invariably they say, “Yep, I am.” Unless they’ve got a, a background, or they’ve just, they’ve just committed, they’ve just come out of robbing a bank. “Hey, you think yourself, um, be a good person? “Well, uh, ee, uh, no,” so they gotta admit it then. But most of the time, 99.988887% of the time, they say, “Yeah, I’m a good person.” And when you ask ‘em to elaborate on that, they’re very happy to do that. They point to a catalog of kindnesses: showing love, doing good, and all the rest. They’ve helped little old ladies across the street. They’ve mowed the neighbor’s yard, they’ve, you know, done whatever, fed the cat. I don’t know. They do all those things.
I, I like to ask people who profess their own goodness what makes them better, really, than a pirate? What makes them better than a pirate? Pirates, they swab decks. They maintain some level of order and good discipline on the pirate ship. They, they cook meals, serve one another meals, eager to do a good turn to their mates. Or mateys. But if, if virtuous actions make someone a good person, wouldn’t pirates qualify?
Years ago I read a book called “The Republic of Pirates,” by Colin Woodward. Tells the true story of the infamous pirates of the Caribbean. Remarkable period in history. This is by no means some kind of a spiritual book, but it’s, it’s enjoyable. Pirates, historically, tended to relate to one another on board a ship with a kind of crude democracy: each pirate having a vote, splitting treasure evenly among them. Equal risk, equal reward. Now that’s good Christianly behavior, isn’t it? Of course not. Why? Because we all know that pirates have ulterior motives.
The so-called “good behavior” of pirates, remember that they practice all that good behavior and virtue aboard a pirate ship, the purpose of which is to rape, pillage, and plunder innocent, unsuspecting victims on the high seas. In the same way, the most moral behavior of the unbelieving world is all aboard a world pirate ship, all bent on rebellion against God, all bound together in common purpose to live their own way and reject the God of Heaven. So all their acts of benevolence and charity, all their good deeds, their altruism, all the gifts that they give to charity, any other ostensible virtues one might point to, all that counts for nothing before a holy and perfect God. In fact, all their good virtue, it’s like filthy rags before the God of Heaven, Isaiah 64:6.
Commentator Leon Morris writes, “Even people who own, own no allegiance to God practice some virtues. They love those who love them. They repay good deeds unto them. They lend to those in need, if they can be sure of getting their money back, or perhaps rely on getting loans in return when they themselves are in need. If Christians do these things, then they’re doing no more than the world does. It’s easy for believers to congratulate themselves on some virtue they fancy they detect in themselves. But before they can claim that they are obeying Christ’s command, they should ask whether they are doing anything more than sinners do in similar circumstances.” End quote.
So again, the highest ethic an unregenerate person can rise to is the ethic of reciprocity. Another way of saying it is that this ethic of reciprocity, it requires absolutely no grace from God, none. Natural man can achieve it all on his own, which is why we’ve called this outline point, “Reciprocal love is not Christian love.” To think that we’ve obeyed Christ’s command to love when we’ve only loved those who loved us, when we’ve only done good to those who’ve done good to us, and when we’ve only made safe loans, ones where the repayment with interest is guaranteed, we’ve riven, risen no higher than the unregenerate world.
Frederic Godet writes this, “The covert selfishness of this conduct comes; out only to lend those who, it is hoped, will lend in return, it’s a shrewd calculation, selfishness in instinctive accord with the law of retaliation. Utela, utilitarianism coming forward to reap the fruits of morality. What fine irony there is in this picture. What criticism on natural kindness.” End quote.
The real test is, do you love as Jesus instructed? Do you love, not just your friends, but your enemies too? Do you practice good to those who hate you? Bless those who curse you? Do you regularly pray for those who abuse you, and do you expect nothing in return for it? Harboring no resentment at all when your love is not repaid? That is the question, because anything less than that is not Christian love. So we’ve seen that reciprocal love is not Christian love.
Let’s consider a positive point in verse 35, again, illustrating the nature of Christian love, which, which is what makes us as Christians, truly, gloriously different from the world around us. Point number two: Disinterested love is Christian love. Disinterested love is Christian love. Now, when I use the word, uh, “disinterested,” I don’t mean uninterested or aloof, uh, cold hearted. The meaning of “disinterested” that I’m interested in is that we love with no interest in outcomes. Most particularly no interest, no self-interested outcomes. Christian love is always interested in the person. We’re never cold, never aloof. But we don’t wanna love to effect an outcome. We don’t want to love to get anything out of it. We don’t wanna love to change someone’s disposition toward us, or their behavior toward us, or guarantee a return in the future on our acts of kindness. That’s what we mean by “disinterested love.”
So then, why do we love? Look at verse 35. Jesus reiterates the original command. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great. You’ll be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Look, we love because it’s good and right and pleasing to God. We love because it reflects God because it manifests God’s glory. We love for the sake of the virtue of divine love, no matter what the practical outcome.
And very significantly, this is what stands out in the unbelieving world. Of course it does. Of course it will. “Cretans” (and Americans) “are all liars and evil beasts and lazy gluttons.” They’re all after themselves getting what they want, getting what they think they deserve. Why wouldn’t this stand out like a light shining on a hill? The regular habitual practice of this kind of disinterested love, it’s not only the visible, tangible demonstration of truly Christian love, but it is also what makes us gloriously different from the unbelieving world.
This kind of love that Jesus commands, it far surpasses the most, the most moral unbeliever. Whether a religious one or an irreligious one, whether theistic or atheistic or anybody in between, nobody but Christians love like Jesus prescribes here. And we need to not shy away from allowing that difference to be seen and known and talked about. That is good and right, because we’re not drawing attention to our own moral goodness, as if this had anything to do with us. There ought to be something so utterly remarkable in our lives that it is not due to us. It is only due to the grace of God, and so we immediately point to the grace of God to explain our behavior. Don’t draw attention to us but to him, but to the goodness of God, his regenerating work, his redeeming grace, the love that he’s already shown to us in Christ Jesus.
“Do you love, not just your friends, but your enemies too?”Travis Allen
Look at the verse again. Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good, lend.” He’s just restating, as, as we said, we just restating what he already said. Everything we’ve already learned about love from verse 27 onward, we bring into this context. It applies here. He’s all, he’s carried all of that forward just by restating the principle. What about that final command, “Lend, expecting nothing in return”? That’s new. Does that mean we’re not to make loans, but only give gifts to people as Christians? I used to hear the saying quite commonly, “Neither a lender nor a borrower be.” You ever heard that? Bankers love that, don’t they? No, they don’t. Because it’s not true.
“Neither a lender nor a borrower be.” Doesn’t that contradict what Jesus just said? He commanded, not suggested, commanded love. Love. “And lend, do good. Lend, expecting nothing in return,” right? Lend. We are to lend to others. But we wanted to get clarity about this because it is been common. May be a little bit confusing for us as Christians. Does this mean we’re to just give gifts, never loans, never expect repayment? Is that a contradiction of what Jesus is saying here?
Just to get a little bit of clarity about this verb “lend,” it’s the word, word daneizo. And it refers to, m, it refer, the word itself refers to making a loan. It refers to lending money out in order to receive back payment with interest. That’s biblically permissible. And Jesus isn’t condemning the practice in what he says here. In fact, all banking business, home buying, incorporates the principle of loaning money with interest, which is not condemned in Scripture. Now the sin of usury, loaning money out at exorbitant or extremely high interest rates, that is clearly condemned in the Bible and by biblical principle, precept, but not loaning out money at reasonable rates. Repayable interest, that’s not condemned.
There’s another word for loaning without expecting of repayment. It’s the word kichremi, which refers to a friendly loan, not requiring repayment. In, in Luke 11:5, Jesus tells the story, the man who goes to his neighbor in the middle of the night. A, a friend, a traveling friend has arrived on his doorstep. It’s the middle of the night. He finds he’s run out of food. He goes, knocks on his neighbor’s door and says, “Friend, lend me three loaves.” That’s the word kichremi, a friendly loan. He’s not gonna need to repay those three loaves in kind. Just what you would do for a neighbor in need. Freely given, expecting nothing in return.
When Jesus commands his disciples, though, to lend money to those in need, even if those people we’re lending to treat us as their enemies, he doesn’t change the word from daneizo (to lend money at interest), he doesn’t change it to, ti, to kichremi (to make a friendly loan, which doesn’t need to be repaid). He’s still talking about making a loan from which you would normally expect to receive back what you loaned with interest. So by using the word daneizo, Jesus has tacitly affirmed the practice of lending for interest, charging usage fees for using someone else’s money. That’s right and proper. That’s what interest is. It’s reasonable when someone, or an entity like a bank, wants to use your money to increase its own capital and make a profit. So loaning money at reasonable interest that is not prohibited by Scripture.
Usage, usage fees were forbidden for Israel in the Old Testament when it came to those brothers in need though, right? The poor, particularly fellow Israelites. The law of Moses says, Leviticus 25:34 and following, “If your brother becomes poor, cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a for, and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.” Isn’t that, isn’t that generosity? “Take no interest from him for profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.”
In other words, since Yahweh redeemed Israel out of the bowels of Egypt, redeeming and rescuing them when they were slaves and had absolutely nothing, well, everything they had, it had been given to them by God, including this land that they were brought into, this rich, bountiful plenteous land. God was so magnanimous in his generosity. So since he had mercy on them in their poverty-stricken condition, they also should practice mercy to their brethren who are in dire need. Charge no interest when they’re in need. You’re not to make money off of somebody else’s misfortune.
Even in the Old Testament, does that brother in need have a responsibility to repay? According to that passage, the only thing prohibited is making money off of their misfortune. Getting interest on the loan or making profit off the food that you give him, whether, whether or not an Israelite required a fellow Israelite to repay what he’d been given in a time of need, that is really a matter of mercy and wisdom. In some cases mercy or, or wisdom would require repayment, promoting dignity through taking responsibility. But in other cases, mercy might demand forgiving any debt, any debt, relieving a weighty burden for the future in an attitude and act of mercy.
Coming back to Luke 6. When Jesus says here, “Lend, expecting nothing in return,” keep in mind that Jesus is not entering into banking, or real estate, or business. That is not the context here. He’s not prohibiting Christians in their normal day-to-day lives from lending money at interest at any costs. He is still talking about that remarkable love for neighbor, lending to someone in need, even if it be someone who treats you as an enemy, and even when you lend, expecting nothing in return.
There has been a view though, as I said, that Christians should never lend money at interest. Never make money off of giving somebody money to buy land, or build a business, or whatever, you should never do that as a Christian. And Alfred Plummer, a commentator, he laments the mischief of that wrong interpretation throughout the annals of church history, particularly in medieval Europe. He says, “Popes and councils have repeatedly condemned the taking of any interest, whatever, for loans. As loans could not be had without interest, and Christians were forbidden to take it, money lending passed into the hands of the Jews, and added greatly to the unnatural detestation in which Jews were held.” End quote.
Look, if there’s, if there’s ever a time when theology matters, and biblical interpretation matters, and has a long-lasting effect, this is an illustration of that, isn’t it? You gotta cut it straight in Scripture, and you gotta get it right. There are consequences and implications for what we say the Bible says, or what we say the Bible means by what it says. And what Jesus is saying here is that when we do lend out money to those in need, and particularly when we, out of love, we lend to those who are treating us as enemies, we lend, we lend freely. And we do not respond in disappointment and despair when that loan is not repaid.
Keep in mind, repayment isn’t always monetary, is it? Repayment comes in various forms. I give you money, you give me respect. I give you money, you give me favors. I give you money, you give me leeway, you overlook certain things, right? I give you favors or money, I expect more time and attention from you. I uh ,I duh, I expect privileged access. I expect more perks, more benefits. That is the way the world operates. Repayment isn’t always monetary. That’s not Christian love. We love and give and lend, expecting nothing in return. And when we receive nothing in return, as we would expect from enemies, right? I mean, that’s what makes them enemies. They’re not nice. So when we don’t get back what we gave them, we don’t get interest, we’re not resentful. We’re not disappointed. And we’re not hesitant to show the same kind of love yet again.
As the Greek scholar A. T. Robertson put it, “Jesus means that we are not to despair about getting the money back. We are to help the apparently hopeless cases.” So look, don’t despair if you lend out to an enemy, and that enemy doesn’t return the payment in kind, doesn’t return with interest, or doesn’t return it at all. Now, wisdom might dictate you don’t do that again, but, you gotta think about, an enemy in need is a neighbor. We love our neighbors. We love them all. That’s what Jesus is saying, even if it costs us. We don’t despair if our money isn’t repaid here on Earth with interest, with principal and interest, or just principle, period.
Why don’t we despair? Why are we able, as Christians, to shrug this off? Because we look at the Most High. And he experiences that all the time. Look at, again in verse 35, “Love your enemies. Do good, lend expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great. You’ll be sons of the Most High, who” what? He’s “kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” God is kind, continually kind, kind as a matter, as a, as a, the course of his nature, his character. “He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil,” who neither thank him nor obey him for his continued acts of kindness. That is the standard for the love that we show. Which is what makes us truly and gloriously different than the world.
When you’re lending to someone in need, even an enemy, you have to lend with a giving attitude, ex, in, instead of with an expectation of making money off of that transaction, or making a friend out of that transaction, or reducing hostility in that transaction, or winning their salvation from that transaction. We love and give and lend without a view to outcomes, without a concern for repayment. That is disinterested love. And keep in mind, just to reiterate the point, Jesus commands us to love like this to our enemies, those who hate and mistreat and abuse us for the sake of Christ. We’re to love them, to do good to them, to lend to them. So as enemies, we go into it knowing full well they may not repay us in kind. In fact, they may repay us with hostility, which is what verses 29-30 say.
Furthermore, don’t lose sight of this fact: Jesus has overtly identified the audience to whom he’s speaking, hasn’t he? Who are they? They’re back in verses 20-23, they are to whom the Beatitudes are written. The ascriptions of blessings are of blessedness as pronounced upon these people. Who are they? The poor, the hungry, the sorrowing, the persecuted. That’s them.
And he realizes, when he gives this command, that many of those to whom he gives a command, they are the ones in need. They are the poor. They are the hungry. Some are even poor for the sake of Christ, because they’ve taken advan, been taken advantage of by the rich because their Christian commitments don’t allow them to keep up with less scrupulous non-Christian business competitors. But it is they, as Jesus’ true disciples, the poor, the despised of this world, they are the ones who are to love, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return.
And when you do, Jesus promises in verse 35 (it’s less of an incentive than it is just a mere statement of fact), when you love like God loves, “your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” As we said earlier, your misthos, your reward will be great. The grace of God which flows through your life will be great, abundant. What is the reward? Notice that Jesus doesn’t really specify here. He’s vague on that detail. He doesn’t spell it out. He doesn’t say, “Look, if you live this way, you follow my prescription, just promise me, you’re gonna get five truckloads of gold.” He didn’t say that. It’s not prosperity teaching. He doesn’t say, even, uh, you know in the sweet by-and-by, he doesn’t say, “Hey look, you’re gonna get huge mansion, your own mansion in heaven with, on, on a hundred heavenly acres, prime property, great views.”
The Muslims promise their so-called martyrs, “You’re gonna get 72 virgins in Paradise, given to you by Allah.” Mormons, same thing. “Become your own God, multitude of wives, eternally pregnant, all of them to populate the planet that you now rule as your own god.” None of that here.
The reward here is the pure pleasure of virtue. The reward here is the pleasure and the joy of loving after the manner of the God in Heaven. The reward is that we’re known as sons of the Most High, because we live according to his perfect, wise, gracious, kind character. In other words, this is not about gaining a reward from God for such good behavior. This isn’t about meriting anything, earning something special in Heaven. After all, remember, Jesus told his true disciples from the very beginning of this text, in verse 20, “Blessed are you who are poor.” Why? “Because yours” not “will be,” but “is the Kingdom of God.”
Look, true disciples already have all of this, all things. The very Kingdom of God, and the God of the Kingdom, is theirs. They already have it all. Loving enemies, doing good to them, lending to those in need, that doesn’t make us sons of the Most High, either. When we love like this, it doesn’t make us sons the Most High. It proves that we are sons and the Most High. Look, and if we don’t ever love like this, what does it also prove? We need to ask some hard questions, don’t we?
Loving like this proves that we’re sons of the Most High God. As one man put it, “The moral likeness proves the parentage.” That’s what Jesus is saying here. Loving like God loves, for one who is a true son of the Most High, that is its own reward. Ask yourself this question: Am I satisfied with that? Does that give joy to me? Do I find contentment in nothing more than my behavior proving who I belong to?
Jesus once said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” That’s a saying, by the way, which is not found in any of the four Gospels. It’s recorded in Acts 20:35. “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” The older that I get, the more I mature in the Lord, the more true I find that to be. With a little reflection, we see why that is so. There’s no more joyful being in the entire universe than God, right? He is the most joying, contented, satisfied being in the entire universe. And by nature he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. He just continues forever and always giving, giving, giving by nature. He can do that because he is the only self-existent being. He doesn’t have any need. He has no lack. He has no want for fulfillment. It’s out of his infinite supply from the endless bounty of his eternal nature that he gives, and gives, and gives, and gives.
If we’ll live our Christian lives with the same attitude, we’re gonna find the same reward of joy and pleasure, full contentment, assurance that we do indeed belong to him as sons of the Most High, because we live reflecting that beneficent, charitable, gracious, kind character. Fact, we then become like conduits, channels of that blessing of his toward others here on Earth, which again is its own reward.
I like how William Hendriksen put it. He said, “The reward is in proportion to, yet always far greater than, the sacrifice. In this present life, it consists of such things as the inner satisfaction of having been able to help others, hence rejoicing in their joy; the peace of God, the God of peace within the heart. In this life, after this life there is the sum total of all the blessings of salvation throughout eternity. Of this, God’s children have a foretaste even now, and in particular there is the public acknowledgment by Jesus Christ himself at his glorious return.” End quote.
One of those public acknowledgments, Matthew 25:21 (and verse 23 as well), “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” Is that enough for us? Matthew 25:34, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” You are possessors of the Kingdom now. You will one day inherit the full measure of that Kingdom in a, in the life to come. Beloved, that is what makes us truly and gloriously different from the unbelieving world, even its most moral specimens, most moral citizens operating on their highest ethics of reciprocity. Their ethics are always tainted with self-interest. Their ethics are always pushed, demanded by an accusing conscience, and that is because they are strangers to divine grace. But not us. Not us.
As we think about ourselves, the kind of love we practice, we just need to ask in closing, do we, we have more in common with worldly self-interest that Jesus describes, or do we have more in common with divine benevolence? Do we love only those who love us, and do good only to those who do good to us? Do we lend (whether cash, money, or time, or resources, or attention, or energy and effort), do we lend only if it means we get some kind of repayment?
Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks his readers to consider by way of self-reflection (this is good), “The question which we must ask ourselves then, if we want to know for certain whether we are truly Christian or not, is this: Is there that about me which cannot be explained in natural terms? Is there something special and unique about me in my life which is never to be found in the non-Christian? There are many people who think of the Christian as a man who believes in God. A man who is morally good, just, and upright and all the rest, but that does not make a man a Christian. So we must ask ourselves,” Lloyd Jones says, “As I examine my activities and look at my life in detail, can I claim for it that there is something about it which cannot be explained in ordinary terms, and which can only be explained in terms of my relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ? Is there anything special about it? Is there this unique characteristic, this ‘plus,’ this ‘more than’? That is the question.” End quote.
That which is special in us, what makes us truly, gloriously different, is what God has wrought in us by his grace. By the operation of his Holy Spirit of grace. By sending Grace Incarnate in-bodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s “the grace of God,” Titus 2:11, that has “made us a people for his own possession, who are,” what? “zealous for good works.” Not lazy about good works, certainly not indifferent about good works. “Zealous.” That’s why we love this way. That’s why we do good. That’s why we lend, expecting nothing in return, because the love of God in us is what compels us. It’s what makes us different from the rest of the unbelieving world.
As we pray now, as you think about your life, as you pray this week, ask God to encourage you by giving you ample opportunity to show this kind of love. Whether it’s to someone in need, that’s beyond them repaying you, or whether it’s, frankly, an enemy, someone who doesn’t treat you well. Ask God to give you an opportunity to demonstrate this kind of love, and then ask him for the power, the motivation, the joy, the desire to fulfill that, to actually obey that. And by doing that, may he give us encouragement and assurance that we are truly sons of the Most High. And may that reward of joy and contentment in him be filled up. That’s our prayer even now. Let’s pray.
Father, you’ve heard how we have described this, and what we are asking you for. And we do come before you because, i, in great need because a sermon like this, it’s, it’s going to convict. It’s, it’s stepping all over our toes and penetrating into our hearts. We realize that there are many times in our lives that we live just like the world around us, and there’s really not much that marks us as different. I mean, we go to church on Sundays, and we read our Bibles, and we do those things, but the unbelievers have their own rituals, and their own texts, and all the things that they do as well. Father, we want to see this kind of love, the love that characterized the Lord Jesus Christ, the love that you have demonstrated from the very foundation of the world. We want to see that love coursing through us, that we would become channels and conduits of your love and blessing to all people, even the ungrateful and the evil.