Peter began to say to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
In Matthew’s account Peter’s question is more blatant: "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" (Mark does not have this second part.) Should we recoil from all self-interest? The ‘gospel of wealth’ folks would find Peter’s question quite normal. Isn’t it true that we stand in need of everything? Is it ‘selfish’ to expect God to reward us for our efforts? And what of our endless talk about ‘eternal reward’?
St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century shed a very clear light on this topic: “God is not loved without reward, even though God should be loved without thought of reward. True charity cannot be empty, but it does not seek profit, ‘for it does not seek its own benefit’ (1 Corinthians 13:5). It is an affection, not a contract. It is not given or received by agreement. It is given freely; it makes us spontaneous. True love is content. It has its reward in what it loves. For if you seek to love something, but really love it for the sake of something else, you actually love what you are pursuing as your real end, not that which is a means to it.” Two centuries later, Meister Eckhart made the same point. Speaking about people who want to gain something from religion, Meister Eckhart said, “They love God for the sake of something else that is not God,” and he went so far as to compare them to Judas.
What all these people seem to be telling us is to avoid the commercial spirit in our faith. That is a very counter-cultural thing to do, because the commercial spirit enters everywhere now. We are not to make a business of religion: God is not our business.
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