Expect Nothing


They’ll get you every time.

They’ll bring you grief and aggravation, and make you gnash your teeth in frustration. I’m not talking about Barry Manilow songs. I’m talking about something far more subtle and subversive – your expectations.

“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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (LK 6.35-36).

We live in a world of payback. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. But Jesus says do good to others without looking for payback from them. Love your spouse, your kids, and fellow Christians, even your enemies expecting NOTHING back from them, not even so much as a “Thank you.”

We parents say things to our kids like, “After all I’ve done for you, how could you do this to me”? In other words, “Since I’ve slaved for years providing for you, I EXPECT you to always be grateful, respectful and kind to me.” We want them to fall at our feet crying, “How can I thank you again today for all the food and clothing you provide, all the ball games you drive me to, and all the wisdom you give me?? Thank you, thank you, thank you! Is there anything I can do for you? Clean the kitchen? Make my bed?” Ain’t gonna happen.

Our subconscious expectations of others are usually dashed.? We clean the house and our spouse doesn’t notice. We take the kids to Disney World and the whine about not going to the beach.? We loan a brother $500 and he never pays it back. And when our expectations don’t materialize, we get bitter.

So Jesus commands us to love “expecting nothing in return.” After all, this is what God is like.

He’s kind to the ungrateful. He lavishes blessings on committed rebels. And he dispayed his mercy most starkly on the cross when he crushed Jesus for us while we were his enemies. And Jesus himself healed lepers who never returned to thank him, fed thousands who didn’t believe in him, and prayed for those who nailed him to the cross.

Hoping others will repay the good we’ve done them will make us bitter, because they will rarely return the favor.? But Christ can empower us love others without looking for anything in return.

And don’t worry. God is watching.? Your reward will be great.

photo by Darwin Bell


  • Wendy says:

    Thank you Mark! We live in a society that feels such a sense of entitlement and it is easy to slip into that without even realizing. We sub-consciously think that we deserve “this” because we did “that”. And before we even know what’s happening, we are bitter toward someone because they didn’t give us what we felt we deserved. Thank you for the reminder that we don’t do things for the praise of people!! We do good because it is what our Father commands us to do, and our reward is in Him, not in the gratitude of the people around us.

  • This is good. I’ve read where Piper refers to this in somewhat of a similar fashion, pointing out our own proneness to feel compelled to pay God back for the mercy and grace he’s given us. He refers to it as the debtor’s ethic. He warns about such tendencies. Read more here: http://ow.ly/8hYn

  • Ron Reffett says:

    Wow! How appropriate and timely! I was just thinking about this the other day. Since I’ve been unemployed I’ve had a little more time to get some things done around the house. I have been catching up on laundry and cleaning etc…I still can’t bring myself to wear the apron!! :) yet, not one thank you not one “I really appreciate you doing this”
    It has really exposed my sinful heart once again, I do things for other people because I do operate under the debtor’s ethic, I expect people to notice me when I do something and stroke my pride, what a Pharisee I can be! I am so thankful that God doesn’t treat me in that fashion, I would be in very bad shape! He continues to show mercy and grace even when I behave like a spoiled little brat! I want to do away with bitterness and the desire to be noticed, I only want to catch the eye of my Savior He’s truly the only one I need to worry about pleasing.
    Thanks for such a great post this morning, I needed this today!
    Ron Reffett

  • Rachael says:

    Expectations can be so subtle. I might not ever get to the point of being completely rid of them. I think I will always feel disappointment at times. Here’s a neat passage that recently lept out at me:

    Acts 20:22-24 (ESV):

    ?And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.?

    That’s a nice selfless approach to a great life purpose…

  • Hey Wendy,

    Great comments – We certainly do live in a society with a sense of entitlement, and that feeds our sinful cravings. I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s true. Thanks for your comment.

    Thanks Deek!

    John Piper is a fountain of wisdom! Yeah if anyone would have a right to expect to be repaid, it’s God. Of course, we never could repay him; we can only receive his grace with thankfulness.

    Hey Ron,

    Sounds like you’re in my club – I’m the president! Yes, praise God that he doesn’t treat us like we deserve when we fail to appreciate him. I’m glad he’s so full of mercy. Thanks for your comments!

    Hi Rachael,

    Great verse from Acts! If only I could be that selfless… thanks! I’m grateful that in heaven we’ll finally be free from expectations, except the expectation of endless worship and enjoyment of the Lamb!

  • Hey Mark!
    Thank you so much for this post. I kid you not, this is exactly what God has been teaching me the last few weeks–the dangers of having expectations. We just need to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, whatever that looks like played out in real life. Thanks again!

  • Hi Rachel!

    I feel like I have to keep learning and relearning this. You’re absolutely right – we need to seek first the kingdom! Thanks for your comment!

  • Luke M says:


    Thanks for the post. I’m going to try to have that mindset at home… serving without expecting even a thank you. (emphasis on “try”).

  • I’m still trying too, Luke….maybe someday I’ll get it down.

  • Emily says:

    Wow. That is all so true! I find that at work I am more apt to stand around and do nothing, because I know I won’t get any praise for what I actually do. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Hi Emily,

    Thanks for your comments. I hadn’t thought about how this applies to work, but you are so right, it does, we are to work heartily as to the Lord rather than to men, knowing that from the Lord we’ll receive the reward. Good application!

  • Great post Mark,

    Jesus told us to give privately – we don’t even need to expect gratitude because our reward will come from a much better place, and mean much more when it’s received. True Christian giving and love provide a wonderful glimpse into the nature of God’s grace.

  • Amen, Chad – and isn’t it better to have the King of Kings reward us than any human? Thanks for your comment!

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