Whether musicians realize it or not, they are appropriating a gift from God.

Watch trained musicians playing together and you are witnessing the realization of a joy that non-musicians will never experience. And this is true whether the setting is a symphony orchestra or a jazz trio or a high school marching band.

It’s a complex and nebulous joy, comprised of many parts and having many degrees. There is mutual dependence and respect, there is the satisfaction of being a contributing member to a community of the like-minded and like-skilled, there is shared aspiration and shared satisfaction, there is a sense of generosity and aesthetic accomplishment, of being part of something unique and therefore timeless. And much else besides.

This special joy is available to anyone who is willing to acquire the skill of playing an instrument. You can say it is a reward, but that’s a loose and misleading way of speaking. To speak of rewards is to assume a rewarder. When you reach the top of a mountain and enjoy the view from there, the view is not the reward, as if it’s something that might have been withheld. The view is the discovery of what was there all along, waiting for you to climb the mountain and appropriate it.

Christianity is often spoken of as a religion of rewards, and that is equally loose and misleading. The thought is that, if you do such-and-such or lead a life that is so-and-so, God will then benefit you with something. But that’s like saying the dramatic view is like a pat on the head for the effort of climbing the mountain; or the special joy of playing in a jazz trio is like the payment from the owner of the club.

Christ does not teach how to earn rewards. He teaches how to appropriate the joy of being in harmony with God.

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