Everyone likes receiving a reward. Many of our rewards are intangible, for example, when one’s children grow up to be happy contributing adults, it’s rewarding. We expect a reward for our work, which usually has monetary value, and those who aren’t working for income appreciate acknowledgement. Many people accomplish much, and they are greatly rewarded.
But, what about those who have little opportunity, who have disabilities, or are regularly overlooked by those to whom they look for rewards? I wonder if they pray like David did,
O Lord, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life.Psalm 17:14
Wealthy and powerful people have been well rewarded in this life. Some of them use their influence and funds to assist those who struggle to make it in this world, hopefully because they realize that life in this world is not the end of the story. There are others who feel that this life is all there is, and they grab all they can while they can. Their reward is solely in this life.
Jesus spoke to those that the world had ignored, who weren’t getting many, if any, rewards in this life. In the Sermon on the Mount, he told the poor in spirit that theirs was the kingdom of heaven, those who mourned would be comforted, the meek would inherit the earth, the merciful would be shown mercy, the pure in heart and peacemakers would know God, and that those who desire righteousness would find it. His audience ate it up. The rulers of Rome and the leaders, pharisees, scribes, and teachers of the Jewish religion felt threatened.
It wouldn’t get much positive press today either.
Jesus was leading people to open their eyes to see a far greater reality than rewards earned on this earth. He was envisioning eternity, and those who were focused on rewards in this world could not see it.
Of course, that’s a generalization, for some well rewarded people in Jesus’s day understood his message. In the USA, most of us have been better rewarded than those who struggle in oppressive regimes or poverty-stricken countries, and many of us also understand that this life is only the beginning of life with Jesus.
About a third of the uses of the word reward in the New Testament are included in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said we would be rewarded in heaven when we are persecuted for following him, love our enemies, give freely and secretly to those in need, don’t make a big deal of our prayers for appearances sake, and Paul added that we should build our lives on the truth of the gospel, follow God’s will for our lives, and do everything in service to Jesus.
It’s a bit tricky to focus entirely on heavenly rewards. When we follow Jesus and do what he calls us to do, he says he will reward us and I believe him, but if the reason I’m doing what he wants me to do is simply for the reward, I’m not so sure. I hope I’m following Jesus out of love, obedience, humility, and a genuine desire to serve others. However, the times I am really serving myself, Jesus says, my reward will be only what I manage to gain in this life.
I suspect that eternity with Jesus will be full of highly rewarded people we have never heard of, whom this life did not treat well, and who hung on to Jesus with mighty faith and love.
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.Revelation 22:12
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
When we get together in real life, I’d love to talk with more about deicide and the polytheistic religions of that time.
Sounds good, Judi!
Thank you for reminding me to live for Christ and to serve Him!
And thank you for taking the time to comment, Kim!