Motives, Actions, and Rewards


“John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.  Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Mark 9:38-50 (ESV)

I admit that I have a hard time understanding what Jesus is teaching here. I pray that the Holy Spirit gives me understanding. Jesus promised that the Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13) and I’m claiming that promise today in Jesus’ name.

I think there is a dual focus in this teaching. First, Jesus seems to be showing that He is the one who matters – His power and His person. When John tells him that they stopped someone exorcising demons in Jesus’ name because, “he was not following us,” Jesus corrects him. Jesus points out that the issue is that a mighty work is being done in Jesus’ name and then points out the benefit to the one who has done the work – he won’t be able to soon afterward speak evil of Jesus. Here’s what I take from this:

  • Just because someone doesn’t belong to “our group” doesn’t mean that they don’t belong to Jesus.
  • When a mighty work is done in Jesus name, it brings glory to Him and also benefits those for whom the work is performed.
  • Even if the “worker” of the mighty work isn’t a disciple of Jesus, there is still hope for them to turn to Christ. After doing the a mighty work in Jesus’ name, they won’t be able to quickly speak evil of Him.
  • Jesus will receive the glory if the work was done in His name.

I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t exercise discernment and be wary of false teachers (or those who are not true disciples of Jesus, but seem to be doing mighty works in His name).  I’m also NOT saying that we shouldn’t warn our people about these teachers when evidence of their carnality eventually comes to light.  What I AM saying is that our attitude should be more like Paul’s attitude in those situations.  He writes to the church at Philippi about those teachers who were preaching Christ, but doing it from impure motives.

“Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

Philippians 1:15-18

The essential question seems to be this, “Is Christ accurately being preached?”  If so, then we have reason to rejoice.

Jesus also seems to be teaching that actions are important – both good actions and bad.

  • Giving a cup of cold water to a disciple (for Jesus’ sake) results in a reward, even if the giver is not a follower of Jesus
  • Causing a little one to lose faith results in terrible punishment, even if the one responsible is a disciple of Jesus.
  • Our members (eyes, hands, feet) can easily lead us into sinful activity. If they cannot be controlled it is better that they be removed.
  • Everyone will be “salted with fire” (i.e. tested with trials). This is in contrast to those who are thrown into Hell where they are not “salted” with fire, but where the fire never dies.

I think that having “salt in ourselves” means to be embracing the trials that are sent to humble us and conform us to Jesus’ image. When we fail to learn the lessons that those trials bring, the “salt” of the trial loses it saltiness and fails to have the desired effect – which ultimately is to cause us to live at peace with each other.

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Please post your comments so we can discuss.

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2 Responses to Motives, Actions, and Rewards

  1. Jon Swart says:

    The concept of plucking out eyes, and cutting off hands and feet always has disturbed me. Wouldn’t everyone be half blind (or more), or disabled in hand or leg if these words were taken literally? So I, personally, do not take them literally.
    Adam Hamilton, pastor and author speaks of the styles of teaching Jesus employs:
    simile – “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
    parable – An expanded use of simile by telling the story as it applies – i.e. the prodigal son
    prophetic hyperbole – examples include- “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” – or – “I’ve told you a million times…”

    I think the plucking out of eyes and cutting off of limbs falls into the prophetic hyperbole in order to get his point across, and to declare the degree of seriousness the offenses are when committed.

    Anyway – those are my takes on that scripture.

    Keep up the good work Jim!


    • Pastor Jim says:


      I think you’re absolutely right about Jesus using hyperbole in this passage. You’ve given some excellent examples. Thank for joining in the conversation!