12 How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. (Psalm 116:12-14 NIV)
Reciprocity is the idea that people will respond to each other in similar ways. If you are nice to others then they will be nice to you. If you are mean and nasty to other people then you can expect that others will reciprocate in like manner. There is a lot of truth in the idea although everyone can think of experiences from their life where things didn’t follow the law of reciprocity.
I can think of many times in my life where a friend helped me in some way. Later, I found an opportunity to help my friend. I helped my friend do some painting at his house and he helped me tear out a bathroom at my house. My friend picked up the bill when we met for lunch so the next time we went to grab a bite to eat I insisted that I pay the bill. Most of us think of reciprocity as a way to “settle” the books of friendship. After all, most people think of friendship as a give-and-take proposition.
If keeping score in our friendships to make sure that we are equally contributing to the relationship is the focus then we are sure to run into major problems if we apply this same expectation to our relationship with God. The Psalmist says, “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?” The Psalmist isn’t making a list of what he needs to “do” to get even with God’s wonderful acts of kindness, he is overwhelmed with gratitude for what the Lord has done. If we really think about all that God has done for us then it won’t take us long to agree with the Psalmist that “repaying” God is out of the question.
I think there are many of us who fail to see what the Psalmist saw. For some people their salvation is a gift given by God, but they quietly understand what they have done as a reason why God has taken notice of them. They see the good things that have taken place in their life as a blessing from God, but deep inside they feel a sense of entitlement for these good things because, after all, they’ve been “good” people. When bad things occur they oftentimes wonder out loud, “Why would God let this happen to me? I’m not perfect, but I’m a good person.”
The truly wise person is the one who recognizes that God’s goodness has been poured out like a flood, even though I am undeserving. The truly wise person know that God’s goodness can never be repaid, but it can be celebrated and shared. “Lift up the cup of salvation! Share His goodness in the presence of all of His people!” I can never repay the Lord for what He has done and is doing in my life, but in response to His kindness I desire to serve Him for the rest of my days. My desire to serve the Lord is not to balance the books or to win His favor, but it is a response of gratitude for His grace and kindness.
My prayer today, Lord, is that You would strengthen my desire to pour out my life in service to You as an act of gratitude. Never let me think that I can earn Your goodness by doing good things.