Matthew 10:40-42 (NRSV)
40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Jesus has spent some time talking about how costly following him will be and the sacrifices it will take. It feels like, in this text, he is pointing to some of the benefits. He is pointing to community. A wider family of commonality. A welcome to the brother and sister sojourning with the gospel. He is talking about hospitality. Although as it's Jesus, he’s also talking about far more than that. ,
The word receive is used quite a lot. It seems to point to welcoming. Preparing a table, providing a place to stay. To receive someone is to welcome them just as they are. When we receive one who represents Jesus, we in turn welcome Jesus in them. It is fellowship and communion.
I have heard the ‘prophet's reward’ bandied about in certain circles alluding to some kind of impartation. It goes something like, if one welcomes a prophet who is favoured by God and gets words of knowledge then you will in turn receive their gift. I don’t quite see it that way. It feels like Jesus is alluding to everyone receiving a ‘reward’. If you act like Jesus you will receive a reward, if you are on the receiving end of one acting like Jesus you will receive a reward. God is very generous like that. Although I’m not quite sure if the reward looks like a mansion in heaven because Jesus seemed far more concerned with how we treated people here and now for their sake and his Father's sake than for our own sake. Perhaps the reward is just in the giving and the receiving and obeying Jesus. If you have truly received hospitality, then you will in turn want to give it away. It is a gift to do both.
We don’t check the credentials of those we welcome. It nearly feels naive to just receive a prophet or a righteous person on their word without doing a 'Google stalk' on them but that is what we are told to do. Most of us would resent someone who took advantage of our kindness or the kindness of a stranger. ‘How could they!’ we would cry. I think those who have journeyed through ego-death and surrendered themselves to Christ no longer concern themselves with such thoughts. It may sting but they have been true to themselves and no act of kindness or hospitality is wasted. So if a homeless man knocks on your door and asks you for a couple of eggs and, as you give them to him at the door, he says ‘You wouldn’t fry them up for me, love?’ so you welcome him in, fry them up and have lunch with him (a true story from my mom). If afterwards, he leaves and you see him jumping in to an SUV around the corner driving off in to the sunset, it would be easy to resent but the reality is, you have still shown hospitality and kindness and that cannot be stolen from you.
Something I have always missed is the cup of cold water. It always read to me simply as a cup of water but I didn’t take in to account the cultural context of cold water. It wasn’t like when you arrived to someone's house that they went to the fridge and got you a nice cup of cold water. Cold water shows effort and a value placed upon your guest. You have to dig deeper to the bottom of the well to get cold water. Are we prepared to do that? Do we freely give of that which we have worked hard for? I love how Jesus is talking to the disciples here and he calls them 'little ones'. No one is greater than anyone else in the Kingdom. We are all little ones. We all need welcoming and, in turn, it is our calling to welcome others in the name of Jesus – just as they are.
Ferg Breen is married with two kids and is a counsellor, psychotherapist, lecturer and pastor in Dublin. He also performs motivational seminars inspired solely by the work of David Brent.