By Kevin Guigou – Associate Pastor
Even though God’s children are saved by grace and motivated by love, the Scriptures also show another remarkable incentive for us to walk in obedience. That extra stimulus is described as rewards of inheritance, which God reckons toward our future heavenly account as we walk faithfully.
We are redeemed by Christ’s work—and rewarded by our work.
My wife Sara and I went out to a restaurant with friends recently. One topic of conversation was the difference between paying for the meal and adding a tip for our server. In our culture, some level of tipping is somewhat expected, but the gratuity is intended to be a “bonus blessing” for a job done well.
Even though the customer is already paying for a dining experience, they are also glad to express additional appreciation to a diligent server. The waitstaff themselves are delighted to receive an extra reward for putting their heart into serving the customer.
Even though their employment is established, any tips and bonuses received for heartfelt efforts are in the category of “above and beyond.”
We wouldn’t refuse rewards from a loving Father any more than a waiter or waitress would refuse a tip. What an insult to the giver that would be!
Grace AND Good Works
But our lives are so focused on the free, unmerited grace of God that sometimes we struggle with the idea of being rewarded for our good works.
It’s natural for us to think, “I don’t need future rewards in the heavenly kingdom; being with God and Jesus will be plenty.” Or, “I’m only motivated by my love for Jesus, not by accumulating extra blessings.”
But it was God’s own idea to allow us to merit additional rewards for our steadfast service to his name. Living with rewards in mind is a vital part of our life of worship.
The story of redemption goes like this: God invites us into his family. We accept. He saves us. We respond with faithful obedience in this life, while he richly blesses us along the way.
Then, He not only gives us entry into a redeemed heaven and earth, but he also rewards us for the diligent efforts and sacrifices that we dedicated to his glory.
Scripture doesn’t describe the specific nature of our rewards in detail, but it’s clear that what we do for the kingdom now sets a pattern for our future “treasures in heaven,” including types of serving, responsibilities and authority to reign with God and his son in paradise.
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:3-5 NIV
There will be joyful work to do in a restored heaven and earth, just like there was in Eden’s perfect garden before the fall of man (Genesis 1:26-29).
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15
It’s Reserved for You
The Bible often speaks of our earned rewards that are “reserved” or “laid up in heaven,” which means that the Lord is keeping record of our devoted labor done for him.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven [rewards tallied in God’s realm], where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV
In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus promised, “Great is your reward in heaven” (in God’s realm) for standing through persecution.
Matthew 5:19 shows that God’s people will receive different levels of rewards based on their obedience to God’s commands (see also Matthew 9:29-30; 18:1-4; 19:27-28; 25:14-30).
“I have fought the good and worthy and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith … 8 In the future there is reserved for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that [great] day—and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and longed for and welcomed His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 AMP
The motive of our sacred labor is also a factor in accumulating rewards. Going through the motions or obeying heartlessly or selfishly isn’t worthy of any prize.
It’s still God’s grace that even offers us “extra credit.” Our efforts for rewards must be in love by faith.
In our childhood, we quickly realized that we were built to look forward to blessings coming our way. It’s built into us not only to be ethically motivated, but also by special things promised for us in the future.
That’s the nature of a hope or a promise. It’s not wrong to be inspired by the potential of being rewarded.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
The hope of eternal rewards is like a loving dad promising his kids an ice cream party after they work together to clean out the garage. He and mom are already providing for all the needs of the family, yet they add a bonus treat to even further motivate their children to accomplish a project for the good of all.
Our Father “spoils” us with visions of extravagance to help us persevere in our labors of love!
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation [Jesus Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work [wasted living] is burned up, he will suffer loss [of potential rewards], though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ESV
“… we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bēma] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:9b-10 ESV
What we do in this life has an everlasting impact on the richness of our experience in the future kingdom.
In Romans 14:10-12, we are reminded that each of us will give an account of him or herself to God. In Revelation 22:12, Jesus promised, “Behold, I am coming quickly! I bring my reward with me to repay everyone according to their works.”
Christians are already declared legally righteous in the courts of heaven. But Scripture also describes a sense of sacred accountability in which the faithfulness our lives will be justly evaluated for breath-taking rewards!
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay