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DEAR FATHER | Small, descriptive words in Scripture can yield great insights about God

What is the significance in Matthew 10:42 when Jesus praises giving a cup of cold water? How should we, in general, understand such simple words when reading Scripture?

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus commissions His disciples to go forth and to preach. He warns them that their mission will be difficult. Their message, which is really Jesus’ message, will bring division and persecution to them. To persevere in the mission on which Jesus sends them, He exhorts them to love Him above all else. Lastly in this chapter, He gives a list of rewards for those who persevere in ministry and to those who assist it. In particular for our purposes here, Jesus states that if one just gives a cup of cold water to a person who ministers in Jesus’ name, they will receive a reward.

The giving of a cup of cold water is an act of true hospitality and care. The apostles would not be driving from place to place in an air-conditioned car. Rather, they would walk on hot, dusty roads. While they may have had some water for the journey, it wouldn’t be cold. Reaching a town and being offered cold water to drink would be a refreshing experience. Their thirst would be truly quenched and their spirits revived for the ministry ahead.

Words such as “cold” can be a great jumping off point for prayerful engagement with a Scriptural text. Perhaps someone is reading this Scripture and sees the words “cup of cold water.” The person might just pause there for a moment, wondering why a cold cup of water?

As we have reflected on already, this is a true act of hospitality and care for someone on a mission for Jesus. Thinking about this could lead this person to reflect on how God has cared for them, not just in general ways, but even in small ways that the person doesn’t normally appreciate. Such reflection could lead to a prayer of greater gratitude for the Lord’s goodness.

In another circumstance, perhaps someone is struggling to believe that God will provide for them in a particular need. For this person, this text could reinforce the idea that God does care about these particular needs and will care for them. This could inspire a prayer for deeper trust in God’s provident care.

Maybe a third person reading this text could be inspired by it to greater intercessory prayer. After reflecting on God’s particular care, perhaps the person offering their intentions to God doesn’t just list them that morning. Instead, they pause, offering up one or two particular intentions connected with each person or situation on their list. This could bring new life to a seemingly rote time of prayer.

We should not, then, quickly skim over these small, descriptive words in Scriptural texts. Taking time to consider why they are there can yield great insights about our God. Such insights can in turn lead to a deeper prayer and relationship with God.

Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis.

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