Posted on July 6, 2014, updated on July 6, 2014 by Skip Moen
I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. Jeremiah 17:10 NASB
Results – Frankly, this verse scares me. There are a few others that give me equal fright, but this one might be at the top of that list. Jeremiah, speaking for God, tells me that God rewards according to results. Oh, my! I so want God to reward on the basis of His benevolence, His mercy and His compassion. To be rewarded on the basis of my results is terrifying. I think of all the times when I have not lived up to expectations, when my efforts or lack thereof did not produce the results God wanted. In fact, I am quite sure my résumé of failures is much more extensive than my résumé of success. If God rewards “according to the fruit of” my deeds, I am surely lost. I will arrive in His presence empty-handed at best, but more likely with thorns and thistles rather than olive branches or grapes.
What’s worse is that God searches my heart. It really doesn’t matter if I show well on the outside. Does God care about the size of my bank account, the number of Bibles I have on the shelf, the record of my charitable gifts? If He searches my heart, He may find that those “successes” were motivated by pride or appeasement. Failures! The “fruit” isn’t just the observable result. Paul makes this abundantly clear. Heart and hand must go together if it’s going to be counted by the Lord. Perhaps that’s why this verse does not say, “I search the tax record or the theological statement or even the mind.” (By the way, the word “mind” in this verse is a Greek mistranslation of the Hebrew kilya’ which means “kidneys.” It’s the Hebrew way of saying “the innermost secret parts of a man.” It has nothing to do with cognitive functions.)
In Hebrew, the word translated “results” is peri. You might recall this word from the blessing of the wine during the Shabbat meal. It is the word for “fruit,” not “results.” The “fruit of his deeds” is the produce of his practice. Notice it is singular. Just like Paul’s comment on the fruit (singular) of the Spirit. It isn’t the deeds that are measured. It is what the deeds produce. We scramble around trying to do all the deeds perfectly, but that isn’t what God is counting. It is the fruit of those deeds that matters. In other words, it’s not the practice of Shabbat. It is the fruit that the practice produces. If you do everything properly during Shabbat but the fruit is dissension in the household, anxiety over responsibility, concern about social expectations or legalistic separation from others, then the fruit is a failure. The actual practice may be in accordance with the traditions of Shabbat, but the net result is ungodly.
If you attend services, say the prayers, study the Scriptures, follow Torah as best you can, but the produce from your labors drives others away from the Lord, causes family members to dread your theology, disrupts your compassion toward strangers or creates animosity, then the fruit is sour no matter how sweetly planted the vine.
Oh, and by the way, you are not the measure of the quality of your fruit. Only the fruit tasters, the ones who are supposed to benefit from your produce, are the rightful judges of your labor.
So I suppose I should take a confidential survey. I should be asking, “Have my efforts had a positive impact on you?” After everyone has answered I might feel a bit better but I will still need to ask the same question to God. Then I will know what I probably can already guess.
It’s still scary.
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