Are rewards a motivation to serve faithfully? They were for Paul. They can be for you, too.
JESUS ON REWARDS. He spoke about rewards six times in the Sermon on the Mount. The persecuted could start rejoicing because of their great reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Acts of kindness to enemies brought a reward (Lk. 6:35). Cool!
Hypocrites who gave for show just got what they wanted. Those who gave secretly would be repaid by the all-seeing Father (6:4). The same applied to prayer and fasting.
It is possible to store up treasures in heaven (20). Might as well start now. One simple way is giving a cup of water to a follower of God (10:42). The Big Payoff happens with Christ’s return: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory…and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27). Rewards are given for good works, for taking persecution joyfully, for praying without ostentation, for refreshing a traveler or inviting the poor to dinner (Lk. 14:14). God does not reward the spectacular; He honors the faithful, like stewards who make wise investments (Matt. 25:23), those who pray persistently or do simple acts of kindness.
PAUL ON REWARDS. Did the champion of grace write about rewards? Even more than Jesus. He told the Corinthians that those who worked with durable materials would be rewarded, while some will be fortunate to have barely made it (I Cor. 3:11-15).
Paul used different analogies to speak about rewards. He compared followers of Christ to athletes going after the prize, and he told Philippian friends that he was one of them (3:14).
He wrote Timothy that he had finished his race. What awaited him? “…the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Not sure what the crown is, but knowing God it must be worth pursuing.
He said that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Our lives will come under the scrutiny of the one appointed by the Father to judge the living and the dead. “So each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). Judgment for the Christian does not determine where we will spend eternity but how. The way we live here impacts our future. Obedience counts!
JOHN ON REWARDS. In the final book, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). And John writes, “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great” (Rev. 11:18).
We are saved by grace, given responsibilities by grace, which we exercise in the power of the Spirit. Then we are rewarded for doing the works God planned in advance for us to do. It’s grace from start to finish. Go for it!