God Only Offers Grace, Not Reward

Do you ever feel like your Christian life is mostly a matter of duty? You might be doing all of the right things—but it’s coming from a place of obligation. And obedience that flows from obligation gets stale very, very quickly.

How can we transform our obedience from duty to delight? We get a clue in, arguably, the most important passage in the Old Testament—2 Samuel 7.

In 2 Samuel 7, we see King David’s response to God transform from a sense of duty to a sense of wonder.

At first, David desires to build a grand house for the ark of God. After all, he lives in a house of cedar, so why should the presence of God live in, of all places, a musty old tent?

The prophet Nathan responds like any pastor does when a wealthy person indicates they want to make a large donation to the kingdom of God. In verse 3, he says, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (ESV). In other words, Will that be cash, check, or stock transferal, David?

But that’s not what God wanted. So in the night, God came to Nathan and flipped the script. He said, in essence, “During all those years I spent rescuing Israel, leading her, providing for her, did I once ask her to build a house for me? Have I asked you to do so?”

Then he makes it even more specific, focusing on David: “And I have been with you wherever you went … I will make for you a great name … I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them … I will give you rest from all your enemies. … the Lord will make you a house” (vv. 9–11).

David wanted to do something great for God. He wanted to build a house. And God says, “Nope. You’re not giving me anything, bud. I’m giving to you. Not because you’ve earned it. Not because you’re special. It’s grace, all the way down.”

God is building you a house.

God didn’t need David to build him a house. And even if he did, David was incapable of that anyway. God used Asaph, David’s songwriter, to say it this way in Psalm 50:

‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ (vv. 12–15)

What is uniquely true of David is true for all believers. God doesn’t need our money. He doesn’t need our talents. He’s not in heaven, wringing his hands, thinking, “Well, shucks, there’s just so much good I want to do in the world. But where can I get the resources to do it?” No, time and time again, God has proven he can do whatever, whenever he wants. He can speak through the mouths of donkeys and supply finances in the mouths of fish. He can stretch a loaf of bread to feed a thousand mouths. The fish, the bread, the donkeys, the cattle, the mountains—he already owns it all.

What, then, is our response to him? Verse 15 says it simply: We give him glory for what he’s done.

God promised a house through David. Centuries later, he would fulfill that promise by sending Jesus, the true King, the one whose reign (that is, his “house”) would last forever. And through Jesus, we are invited into that reign, into that house—a house with “many rooms.” We don’t build great things for God. He builds his house, through Jesus, in us.

Salvation, you see, is not in you; it’s in him. It’s like God told Israel when he first delivered them in the Exodus: “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14).

God only offers grace, not reward.

If there’s one thing we know for sure in this story, God did not choose David and his line because of their righteousness. If he had, David would never have made it.

God’s promise to David was one-sided. It wasn’t based on David’s great acts of the past. It wasn’t contingent on David keeping faith in the future. It was God’s unconditional promise. The only one who needed to hold it up was the one making the covenant.

So when we read the centuries of Israel’s history that follow—filled with idolatry, injustice, and faithlessness—we can know that God’s covenant isn’t in jeopardy. David wandered, God remained faithful. Solomon wandered, God remained faithful. Israel was sent into exile, God remained faithful.

King after king after king forgot God. But God never forgot his people, never canceled his covenant.


Because the basis of God’s promise was not how well people performed or would perform. It was—and still is—grace.


It’s like the show The Voice, where wannabe singers perform for a group of professional judges. If a judge likes a singer and thinks they have potential, they hit a button, turning their chair around with a sign that says, “I want you.” I remember watching that show with my kids, when one of my daughters (elementary-aged at the time) said it like this, “Dad, it’s like God hit his button and spun around his chair, saying, ‘I want you,’ before we even started singing.”

If God didn’t choose us because of our righteousness, then our lack of it won’t cancel his choice to extend grace upon grace to us. All we have to do is acknowledge that our sin is wrong and that God is Lord, submitting to him and asking for his help to overcome our sin.

God has made a one-sided promise to us, and if we receive it, then he’ll keep it, even when we stumble. Our stumbling doesn’t cancel out his grace. His grace is greater than our sin, his faithfulness is greater than our unfaithfulness, and his strength is greater than our weaknesses—no matter how many times we come crawling back to him, struggling with the same sin.

The center of Christianity is not going and doing something great for God; it’s sitting in wonder at all he’s done for us. Our response isn’t go and do, it’s sit and know.