In the first part of this article, a significant number of Bible verses were identified that mentioned rewards. I encourage you to read through those in more detail, if you haven’t done so already. (After all, if anything written here contradicts the Word of God, then God’s message must necessarily supersede my own!)
Some might try to explain these passages as some sort of reward on earth, like the personal satisfaction of helping others, or the privilege of being like Jesus. We say, “virtue is its own reward”, probably to discourage the expectation of “payment” from those we serve, and perhaps based on Luke 6:27-36.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12 NASB
Others may suggest that being reconciled to God and spending eternity with Him are our reward – a sort of “common reward” that everyone who is saved can share in. This is certainly vastly beyond what we deserve, showing the magnitude of God’s mercy and grace.
This isn’t really a reward, though. It’s a gift, generously offered to us by God:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 NASB
If you didn’t read through the passages in yesterday’s article, look again and see what they actually say. Read the larger context of each one, just to be sure that they aren’t being taken out of context. See if they don’t suggest to you that there are very specific rewards for actions that we take.
Based on what the Scriptures say, my conclusion is that, for those who have been restored to peace with God through the gift of salvation from Jesus, and who live according to the pattern that Jesus demonstrated and taught, there are specific rewards awaiting them.
At least some of these rewards will be given in Heaven, but some may also appear here on earth. While every follower of Jesus can enjoy an eternity spent with Him, specific rewards are not necessarily going to be uniformly distributed, there. And, regardless of whether they make our experience in Heaven “better”, it seems that they will be associated with choices we have made before we get there.
I’ve heard this described as “stars in one’s crown”, and while I don’t know the exact nature of all these rewards, that’s a nice metaphor to describe them. Based on what we find in the rest of the Bible, I’m confident that the amount of money given to a church or other service organization will not be the driving factor, nor will how “religious” we look. Instead, going back to the parables mentioned earlier, I expect these rewards to be related to how we used what God gave us on this earth, like money (regardless of whether it was a little or a lot), skills, time, and opportunities.
To be fair, I think that some of the reasons for downplaying the rewards of following Jesus are probably based on sound principles. If we mistakenly think that our redemption from sin is a reward of our own accomplishments, we may be tempted to let an attitude of entitlement sour our relationship with God, as we forget to be grateful for what is truly an undeserved gift. (Or, we might rely on our own works, and neglect to accept Jesus’ sacrifice as a necessary prerequisite for us to be saved.)
On the other hand, if we focus on only what we will get for our good works (especially those rewards that we receive in this mortal life), we might miss out on other opportunities where the Holy Spirit is directing us to serve. When our motivation moves away from love and gratitude, and towards just getting what we deserve, our lives look less and less like Jesus’ did.
So, if you have given over your life to Jesus, and have chosen to just be a steward of what He gives you (including not just your money and stuff, but also your time, energy, and talents), continue to listen to the Holy Spirit’s directions for how to invest those things. Be grateful and show your love for God by living accordingly. However, when He gives you a moment to look ahead, smile and remember that He intends to reward you, as well.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.