Something given for something expected in return…. quid pro quo. This term has dominated the media lately because of its relationship to the impeachment hearings. President Trump is accused of asking the president of a foreign country to investigate a political rival in exchange for military aid and an invitation to the White House. We will see how such an accusation plays out and whether or not it is found to be an impeachable offense. I’m sure you have your opinions.
However, did you know that many followers of Jesus are also guilty of quid pro quo? In Matthew 19, Jesus finished his interview with a very wealthy and disappointed young man who had asked how he could have eternal life. Jesus said that he needed to give up everything he had to the poor, and come and follow him. The young man’s heart was so shackled to his possessions that it blinded him to his own greed and displaced his ability to exercise child-like faith in the only one who could give him eternal life. And so, the young man walked away.
Jesus then said to his disciples that it would be easier for a Mazda RX8 to fit through the cash slot of an ATM machine than for a rich man to get into heaven (or something like that with a camel and a needle). The disciples were amazed at this because their religion and culture had taught them that prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. So, if a wealthy person could not be saved, who could be? Jesus responded in essence, “It’s not a matter of being rich or poor. It is impossible for anyone to be saved apart from God’s power.”
Peter was a bit destabilized by all of this and felt that he needed to remind Jesus (19:27–30) how much they had given up in order to follow him. Jesus replied that God is not a piker or cheapskate. While he calls us to a life of sacrifice and suffering, he does not remove from us the capability of enjoying life’s blessings that he showers upon us. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (v. 27). I think it was the missionary Hudson Taylor who said that “every time he gave up anything for God he found he received so much blessing that he felt himself better off for having given up whatever it was.” (Leon Morris, Commentary on Matthew, 496) This is what so many have learned about a life of ministry and sacrifice; the more you give, the more God blesses—not as a reward, but because he is graciously generous.
I’m only guessing what Peter must have been thinking, but it could have been, “well ok, if I give up everything to follow Jesus then he is going to give all this to me in return. Wow—what a deal!” Here is the very subtle quid pro quo mentality into which we can so easily slip and begin to impugn God’s generosity. If I do something for God then he will do something for me. If I have enough faith then he will heal me. If I give $100 then he will give me $10,000 because he promised right here in his Word he would give 100 fold in return for what I give. If I am faithful to God and pray every day for my kids, he won’t let anything bad happen to my family. However, when God acts differently than our “deal” dictates, then we cry “unfair!” I remember hearing Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, speak about the financial crisis of his ministry when he faced the hardest year of his life. He told God, “after all I have done for you, and you do this to me?” I also remember a dear pastor friend, who had been in ministry longer than I had been alive, telling me when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, “I have served God faithfully for 60 yrs. and look what he has given me?” Both of these men worked through their crisis of faith. Unfortunately, I know those who still carry a grudge against God for not upholding his part of the bargain and are still trying to impeach him.
Do you gravitate toward this kind of thinking? It can be ruinous to your friendship with God. It can lead you to treat him like an adversary. The opposite of quid pro quo is fiducia- trust, confidence, assurance, faith, reliance, and security. You don’t have to make deals with someone you trust; just …. trust him. God will take care of you even though the road is difficult and dark and not at all what you expected. He doesn’t cut deals, but honors his covenant promises in Christ. Wait for him. “Anyone who trusts in him will not be disappointed” (Rom 10:11). “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isa 49:23).