Basic Battle Training
Chapter 15: Motivations: Rewards
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through not steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)
Through this chapter we will explore a vast quantity of verses instructing us on the “economy” of the Kingdom of God. As we trace this doctrine through Scripture we will see that, though not emphasized as it should be within the church, we are all motivated in this way. Continuing, we will show that indeed God is driven by His righteousness to include this motivation and judgment. This follows His intention for a right balance and His desire for a perfect fairness and recognition of work accomplished. (Deut. 25:13; Heb. 6:10; Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:10,23).
Common sense (and experts) tell us that the best way to raise children, train animals, or run a business is through a proper mixture of punishment and reward. A light skim of God's Word will reveal that this is also His pattern in dealing with the human race.
- Adam and Eve were promised the tree of life if they obeyed God, and death if they disobeyed (Gen. 2,3)
- Cain was offered a promise of reward mixed with a threat of judgment (Gen. 4:7)
- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were promised descendants and land for their faith (Gen. 12:1-3,7; 13:15; 15:5,6; 22:17-18; 26:3-4; 28:13-14...)
- OT Kings were rewarded with long-lasting dynasties for faithfulness, and many OT promises prophesied wealth and long life to the faithful (Prov. 2:21-22; 3:1-2, 7-10...)
Although the Old Testament is more preoccupied with rewards in this life, it still promoted promises related to Judgment Day and the resurrection to come. The promises to the patriarchs were never fulfilled in their lifetime, (see Acts 7:5; Heb. 11:13,29), a sure sign that their faith was in a future fulfillment and resurrection (See Job 19:25-27).
Some argue that the promise of reward prompts people to serve God for a selfish motive. We have even heard some say that God put the teaching of rewards in the Bible because of the hardness of our hearts! Besides the fact that Scripture says no such thing, God continually commands us to "lay up treasures in heaven," etc. Starting prior to even the Old Testament, let us consider the example of Jacob and Esau.
Esau was the firstborn, and therefore had the right to the Birthright and the Blessing. But Jacob obtained them both through cunning, deception, and extortion. Esau was motivated by short-term gratification, while Jacob’s desire was to do whatever it took to get the birthright and secure the long term blessing. Was it wiser to seek pleasure now, or to deny oneself and seek the blessing later? (Remember also that God said, "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated" Romans 9;13; Mal. 1:1-4)
The New Testament
In contrast to the Old Testament that offered rich temporal reward for faithfulness, the New Covenant emphasizes the importance of Judgment Day and eternal reward (Col. 3:2). In conjunction with this, we also see that justice is not to be meted out now, but later (2 Peter 2:9). With this in mind, the believers Judgment, or the "Judgment Seat of Christ", is to be the preeminent issue for the New Testament Christian (Romans 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11).
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Understanding these things, several aspects of the New Testament teaching on rewards need to be pointed out:
· The Kingdom of God (John 18:36). Here we must distinguish between the idea of getting your rewards now (prosperity doctrine?) versus later. In Luke 18:22 Jesus taught: “yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me".
· That rewards are a “necessary grace” (Heb. 6:10). God is bound by His righteousness to recognize service as distinct from sloth. To do otherwise would be unjust! God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love.
· The idea of “The Race” (Heb. 12:1). "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (1 Cor. 9:24-27) We are all in a race, but not all will win the prize!
· God’s standard of judgment (Luke 12:47-48). "To whom much is given, of him shall much be required". In the Bible God often used pagan nations to judge Israel. The reason he judged the Jews so harshly was because they had been the recipients of blessing. To them He had sent the prophets, the Scriptures and the promises. They were more accountable, and so received a harsher sentence when they disobeyed. With the position we in the West have in the World, will we not likewise be held to account? (Selah!)
· Christ Himself served for reward! (Hebrews 12:2). "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Did Jesus serve His Father God for a “selfish” motive when he accepted His reward at the right hand of God?
· Righteous pride and standing. This is an aspect of faith missing from most church teaching today. While the Bible condemns a man’s heart being "lifted up" with fleshly pride (2 Chron. 26:16; 32:25) it also notes that Jehoshaphat’s "heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord" (2 Chron. 17:6). Also noteworthy is an exhortation toward "covetousness". While being commanded in the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not covet," we are exhorted in 1 Cor. 12:31 to "covet earnestly the best gifts." It is righteous to be proud and to covet things of the Lord!
· God’s pleasure! This, the most obvious reason for a system of rewards, follows the love, wisdom and mind of God in all things...if He had not wanted such a system He would have not instituted it! God knows us (as His creation) and He knows what we value and what we are motivated by. We will not attempt to second guess, or "interpret" this most obvious part of God's plan!
Clear Biblical teaching on rewards:
In addition to the previously cited Scripture and reasoning, the following is a sampling of God’s instruction to be studied:
- Job 34:11
- Psalm 19:11; 58:11
- Proverbs 24:20
- Matthew 5:11-12, 19; 6:1-4; 10:41-42; 19:21-30; 25:21
- Luke 6:22-23, 35; 12:21, 33, 34; 14:13-14,
- John 4:35-36
- 1 Cor. 9:17; 15:40-58
- 2 Cor. 5:10
- Eph. 6:8 Phil. 4:1
- Col. 3:24-25
- 1 Thes. 2:19
- 2 Tim. 2:12; 4:8
- Heb. 11:6
- Jas. 1:42
- 1 Peter 5:4
- 2 John 8
- Rev. 2:23; 11:18; 14:13; 22:1
As we have "exhorted the brethren" over the years with this obvious Biblical concept we have often received a negative response, usually in one of the following forms:
“But it is selfish to serve God for reward, we should only serve Him out of love”.
As we discussed previous, the idea of righteous "pride" and "covetousness" are valid emotions when properly channeled in the Kingdom of God. In addition to these, the idea of "selfishness" is valid if channeled the same way. Ask yourself: Why did you believe in Jesus Christ in the first place? An honest answer will range from your desire for a better life, to the salvation from sin and hell that was your destiny. In all of the reasons you may have, your own "self interest" was the predominant factor. Is this a bad thing? Were you "wrong" to seek such from the Lord? We think not!!
Why then would one believe that the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, with its values of reward, would be somehow "unrighteously selfish?" Certainly, and well-established Biblically, our relationship with The Father has its foundation and reality in the love and appreciation we all feel for His matchless gift. The question here is not weather we should serve the Father out of love...that should be a natural occurrence! The question before us is whether it is righteous to follow the plan He has outlined and established...A plan that obviously contains reward!
The old “Look Spiritual” trick.
Certainly it is Satan’s work to weaken the fabric of the Kingdom and eliminate the motivating power of rewards...but how does he do it? A possible answer to this question might be a believer who is weak in his Spiritual life. In his weakness, the individual in question may not want to admit this failure and so could strive to "look Spiritual" by proclaiming motivation only through his supposed "love of God". Certainly, with the abundance of people loudly proclaiming their great love for God in our time, this would not be out of line with current Church thinking. With this done, he looks Spiritual and is able to mask the truth of his life by not appearing "selfish".
With this understood, is this not possible on an "institutional" level? One reality of this problem is that "serve God out of love, not reward" has become a "by-word" in many Christian circles. This is where the error takes truest form: at the Church level, where the "mores and standards" of Christianity are established and held in strict control. It is for this very reason that the Berians were considered "noble"..."in that they searched the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so". Searching this subject on even a simple level will quickly wipe away the false humility of this "spiritual" position and establish the reality of things to come!
"But aren’t we all going to just throw our crowns at Jesus’ feet?” (Rev. 4:10)
The real question posed here is: how many crowns would you like to throw? One…or thousands? (See Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). And after you throw the crowns at His feet, then what will happen? Will we be sent to the slums? Or will we be given a mansion and a position?
The bottom line is this: we will all have a job and position for eternity. The 12 Apostles will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). In God's Kingdom some will be Priests and Kings (Rev. 5:10) and some will rule over 5 cities or 10 cities (Luke 19:17,19).
It is logical to think that if some are going to rule, then there will be others who will be ruled over. Which would you rather be?
"But doesn’t the parable in Matthew 20 teach that we will all be rewarded equally?”
In the above parable each worker was also rewarded according to what he did with the opportunity he was given. Those given much opportunity to work were expected to perform within that opportunity. Likewise, those with little opportunity would be judged in accord with that standard. (Kind of like the opportunities we have in the West, compared to the ones in countries where Christianity is not tolerated).
A further point of this parable is concerning the Jews. Namely, that they should not think themselves as special since God is about to add Gentiles to the family of God and "make them equal unto us" (Matt. 20:12; Romans 11).
Note also that as there are degrees of glory in Heaven so likewise are there also degrees of punishment in Hell: Jesus said to Pilate, "he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin"! Some sins are, and will be punished worse than others. In Matt. 23:14 Jesus proclaimed that the Pharisees would receive “the greater damnation”. (See also: Matthew 22:20-2; Luke 10:10-14; 12:47-48).
Satan’s historic attack on this doctrine
Another way this ideology of minimizing rewards has penetrated modern churches is through a "de-emphasis" of works. Originating with Martin Luther, the reformer gave us "justification by faith," but went too far with it. While it is certain that we are saved by faith (Romans 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), the Bible also clearly commands us to work. Backlashing against Catholicism’s salvation by works, Luther called the book of James a "right strawy epistle" and actually tore it from his Bible! He did this in his confusion and because "faith without works" (James 2:14-26) did not fit into his theology. Many passages on faith are typically followed by exhortations to work.
Ephesians 2:8-9, followed by verse 10
"For by grace are ye saved through faith...not of works lest any man should boast, " "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Notice also Titus 3:5, which is followed by v. 8
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us... "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."
Even John 3:16 is immediately followed by a discourse on deeds (v v. 19-21)
"Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.")
Scripture is abundantly clear that we are to do good works! Not for salvation, but as fruit of our salvation (2 Cor. 5:17). Those truly saved will be new creatures with changed lives, laboring in tangible service to God with rich reward to follow. James here made this quite clear: "show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18).
Neglecting this doctrine has immense ramifications. Misunderstanding this concept will lead to confusion in other areas, but proper understanding of rewards in the Bible can be an essential and effective vaccination against other false doctrine.
One error cited is a misunderstanding and de-emphasis of works in the life of the believer. Another example of this are those who teach that every time a believer sins he looses his salvation. These people seem to see everything as either heaven or hell, as if God has no other options. Be sure that the Almighty has more weapons in His arsenal than the flames of perdition.
The Bible speaks of believers losing their rewards: He shall suffer loss: yet he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (See 1 Cor. 3:10-15; Matt. 10:42; Mark 9:41; Col. 2:18; 2 John 8). "
Also found in Luke 12:47-48 is the issue of receiving “stripes”, or being actually beaten for unfaithfulness. Though taught in parable form this illustrates another method of God’s Judgment that can be utilized.
Time is the ultimate commodity an each of us is only given so much...and none of us know how much we have! Of all that we possess, it is the one thing that can never be replaced. What we choose to do with our time is the most important issue for each of us has before us.
It is our prayer that the content of this chapter will stimulate you to re-think what you have been taught and been exposed to. To realize the opportunity you have to profit the eternal Kingdom of God and indeed yourself!
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