2003-05-27 - Rewards
Matthew 5:11,12 Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
A couple of weeks ago one of you requested that I do a devotional on rewards. I thought I would try undertake this topic today.
I'm not one to really focus in on rewards, either temporal or eternal. As far a temporal rewards go...I can look at my life and know I don't deserve them. As far as eternal rewards go...I know I don't understand them and thus I will wait until that day when they are revealed. There are so many things to be focused on in this life that any rewards that might accrue for faithful service to Christ are, what I can only explain as, an overplus.
Scripture does speak of rewards, as noted in the verse we started with. However, Scripture speaks in general terms concerning rewards. There are rewards mentioned in Scripture that are focused on their earthly character (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and as in the verse from Matthew there are verses that focus on the heavenly nature of rewards.
Rather than viewing rewards in a manner that keys in on the advantages to us now on earth or our future rewards in heaven, it is more helpful to look at the one central reward that the Lord grants us through the merits of Jesus Christ. This is commonly called unmerited favor. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is given us, but it is not based on the merits of our good works, but rather this reward of salvation is all from the grace and mercy of Christ.
There are other rewards than the unmerited salvation granted to us in Christ, but all other rewards start from that one central reward. (Some might argue with me that salvation should not be viewed as a reward, and part of me agrees with that. This is why I am calling it unmerited favor. If we look at it as a reward, then we must look at it as a reward that we do not do anything to earn. However, we can not talk about rewards until we have first obtained the favor of the Lord.) The Lord does promise to bless faithfulness. He can also reward wickedness with the deserved rewards of wickedness. 2 Peter 2:15 talks about the "wages of unrighteousness." Just as following the Lord can result in the rewards of God's favor, so also can forsaking the Lord can result in the rewards of His displeasure. It is a two sided coin.
I think it is dangerous to become so focused on rewards that we let the next ruby or jewel we might gain for our crown in heaven control our thoughts. Our service to Christ is not to be done in selfishness, but rather out of love toward Him. To be overly focused on rewards is to be more concerned about ourselves than on the proper nature of our service to Christ. Our response to Christ is to be reflexive and centered in Christ, not ourselves. When we get caught up in rewards we can develop a mentality of service toward Christ that asks, "What's in it for me?" This is not to be our mindset. Let us rather seek to serve Christ from the joy of the salvation that he has offered us and let any rewards we might gain take care of themselves.
Soli Deo Gloria,