A Cup of Cold Water


“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” -Matthew 10:42

If you are a “Christian kid,” doubtless you have heard that verse before. You may have memorized it at AWANA or as part of a Bible study. It might even be written somewhere in your kitchen as Wallwords. Even if you didn’t grow up in church, you may have heard it quoted by a religious person who did.

Well, this week I heard it twice.

Now, as my mother (as well as this verse) says, if something comes up multiple times in a week, you had blimey well better listen. No, that’s not an exact quote. So I did listen. In fact, after hearing it once in personal Bible study, I had tentatively decided to write a post on this very verse; but when we later did a family lesson on it, I knew I had no choice but to write on the subject.

Anyway. As I said, you have probably heard this verse before, as I have, and like me, you may not have paid attention to the context.

If you read the whole chapter, you will realize that the one famous verse is the very last statement at the end of a long, profound speech from Jesus. He is sending His twelve disciples out into the world to be- literally- the first missionaries. The disciples would take no extra clothes, food, or money with them, relying instead on God for all their needs. They were to preach the gospel and do all sorts of powerful miracles. This was quite the motivational speech, complete with a blessing of divine power. I’m telling you, even Steve Jobs had nothing on Jesus’ “Sheep Among Wolves” speech.

And then Jesus winds up his motivational talk with a verse about a cup of cold water.

What? What has that to do with this great mission?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I believe that one of the many reasons Jesus said this is that He knew His disciples would sometimes feel discouraged. Jesus had commanded His disciples to do great works that would leave even the prodigious Roman Empire in awe of God’s glory and power. No doubt these disciples were pumped to do great miracles like healing lepers and teaching the lame to walk; what they wouldn’t have been so keen on doing was waiting tables. Face it- if you had the choice between raising a dead man and pouring water into a cup for some kid, what would you choose? Duh. Resurrection.

So thought the disciples. They didn’t want to do any menial work, as in this famous story. However, as He does again in that story, Jesus reminds the disciples that no act in His name is insignificant. By telling them that they won’t lose their reward for giving a child a cup of cold water, He explains once again that Kingdom priorities are much different from those of the world. This was a reminder to keep their perspectives like Jesus’.

I also believe that God wants us to apply this principle to our own lives. We have all felt stuck doing “worthless chores” that get in the way of works that really matter. We should be doing great things, we think, and all these little things take up our time for doing them!

I felt like this as a young teenager. Though I couldn’t express it to myself (let alone to others), I felt that God wanted me to do great works and wonders for His glory, and that I was trapped in the time-consuming little chores of daily life. It wasn’t that I thought chores were beneath me; I thought that the housework was getting in the way of things that really mattered. For a long time, these thoughts were a source of no little frustration for me.

What I had yet to learn was that Jesus doesn’t view any good work for His glory as worthless or mediocre. He views even the pouring of a drink for a little blooming Christian as worth a reward. When I understood that, I suddenly realized that the chores weren’t the problem; my attitude and priorities were. If any believer is working for God’s glory, he or she will always be rewarded, no matter how small the act may look through the world’s eyes.

Here is the big question- do we have a more strict value system than God does? If He says something is worthy, will we call it worthless? If He calls it meaningful, will we call it a time-waster? If Jesus was standing here with us, I think He would echo His reprimands to Martha and Peter: “One thing is necessary. What God has called clean, do not call common.”

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