I think that most – if not all – of us appreciate the ideas of altruism. Contrary to self-focused principles of “getting ahead, no matter the cost”, or “stepping on people to climb the ladder of success”, we recognize and celebrate people who give up their own convenience (and sometimes far more than that) for the benefit of others.
While we may know (or sometimes be) people who are selfish and focus only on themselves, I feel like we can at least tell the difference. Those who help others without receiving tangible payment in return are generally considered to be better examples of humanity, as compared to those among us who are just greedy or expect to be compensated for any and every good deed.
Perhaps as a carry-over of that cultural norm, it seems that many followers of Jesus are reluctant to talk about what rewards they (and others who strive to copy Jesus’ selfless acts and teachings, for His sake) might receive for their good works.
Certainly, our actions have proven insufficient to restore our relationship with God (only Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for that). I just can’t find any evidence in the Bible that doing enough works can save us, by making us good enough to meet God’s perfect standards (and, in fact, there is a wealth of information that says just the opposite).
Furthermore, the gift of eternal life in Heaven is an irreplaceable opportunity. If that were all that we received in return for humbling ourselves before God and making Jesus the Lord of our lives, that wouldn’t only be eternally “enough”, it would – and will – far exceed anything that we can ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).
At this point we might – and probably should be – more than content with what God has provided for us. But, the Bible still talks about rewards, like in this passage:
And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,
For You recompense a man according to his work.
Psalms 62:12 NASB
Lest we think that this is only an Old Testament principle1, Jesus said the following:
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.
Matthew 16:27 NASB
..and again we read in a letter to the church in Corinth:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB
Hebrews 12:1-3 suggests that Jesus gave His life because of the joy that He anticipated from the results (which I interpret as the reconciliation of humankind, who He loved).
We may remember parables about servants being entrusted with managing someone else’s property. Those who made good use of what they had been “loaned” were given rewards (see Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:1-27).
In addition, here are a number of other passages that talk about people being rewarded by God, often in response to their actions: Matthew 6:3-4, Proverbs 25:21-22, 1 Corinthians 3:7-8, Colossians 3:22-25, Hebrews 11:6. Consider also verses like 2 Chronicles 15:7, Psalm 18:20, Psalm 58:11, Proverbs 11:31, 1 Corinthians 9:15-18, Revelation 11:17-18, Revelation 22:12, and 2 John 1:8.
So, what’s up? Should a Christian expect a reward for the good works that he or she performs, according to the example and direction of God? Let’s take a look further into some of the interpretations in tomorrow’s article.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- “An Old Testament principle”….whatever that is. While there are Old Testament practices that were unique to a specific era of history, not only are the principles still intact, but Jesus further expanded on a number of them. ↩
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