But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil [men].
The translators’ notes say that expecting nothing in return could also be rendered as not despairing at all. I rather like the double possibilities and want to examine both.
First, not despairing at all. It is a simple thing to lose hope in the face of all the need and wickedness in the world. We see evil people acting out their evil desires and it is easy to lose hope. We may love our enemies and they hate us more. We may do good only to see the good we hoped for turned into still greater wickedness. We might give only to see the gift squandered and used wrongly. In the face of all of this, it would be a simple matter (and quite understandable) if we despaired. Jesus says that we should not despair; that we should continue to do good and love those who hate us and give without giving in to the hopelessness that lurks and threatens in those things. Instead, we should remember that God Himself loves those who hate Him and does good only to have the credit for the good He has done given to someone or something else and He gives knowing that what He gives — abilities, resources, life itself — may be squandered. My Father does these things in the face of the despair; almost mocking despair in His copious love and giving and good deeds.
Second, expecting nothing in return. I have learned that we human beings are ungrateful creatures. We receive things we do not deserve and take them as our due. If I love my enemy, he does not deserve my love, but he will often accept it as if he does. If I do good to others, they will frequently expect that I should have done them good — as if I were indebted to them by their very existence. If I give to others, it is highly likely that I will not receive back what I have given which makes lending worse than risky. God’s solution to all of this is to love my enemy and do good to others and give (not lend) expecting no return at all. This is a twofold blessing. On the one hand, if I expect nothing then anything is a welcome surprise. On the other, if I expect nothing then I am unlikely to be disappointed. More, it matches the pattern of my Heavenly Father. He loves and does and gives to those (like me) who cannot possibly repay. My love is nothing to His. My deeds like filthy rags. My giving only a return of what He first gave me.
This morning, I am reminded that I must love [my] enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and [my] reward will be great, and [I] will be [a son] of the Most High.