As I continue with a look into some of the more popular and contrived ideas among believers, I come to a hard one. Is it true that we will receive rewards in Heaven corresponding to our works? Should we be trying to build up our rewards so that Heaven will be even better when we get there?
This is too big a topic to cover well in a blog post, but I want to just highlight some of my thoughts over the years.
It is certainly true that the Scripture says there will rewards in Heaven that will somehow correspond to our works.
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16:27
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. Luke 6:23
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. Revelation 22:12
These passages are pretty clear. The work of the believer does not go unnoticed by his Lord. That’s important, isn’t it? There are times when we wonder whether all our effort is worthwhile. Even those under grace realize that reaching out to others and maintaining a right focus can be challenging. We don’t have to lessen our understanding of grace or compromise our dependence on Jesus to admit that we get tired and feel discouraged sometimes. It is an encouragement to know that Jesus knows our hearts and our desire to be faithful to Him.
Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD, And my work with my God.’ Isaiah 49:4
However, to go out and find ways to serve the Lord for the sake of earning rewards is something quite different. There are those who do their good works in order to get rewards. In fact, I have met people who count on the rewards as wages for what they have done for the Lord. Several things are wrong with that kind of thinking.
1. By treating your service as work to be rewarded, you enter into a legal relationship with the Lord not unlike that the Pharisees expected.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. Romans 4:4 (NKJV changes the word “reward” here to “wages.”)
In other words, your relationship with the Lord (at least in this area) is taken back to the old works formula. Is that what you really want? Once the Lord is finished reminding you how He provided the energy, the time, the protection, the resources, the community, and more with which you worked, you will certainly end up owing Him.
2. The day will come when your work is tested. If it is work He led you to do and you did with pure motives, it will pass the test. If it is work you initiated, whether or not it was “for” Him, and work you did for what you could get, it will not pass.
…each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 1 Corinthians 3:13
3. In many passages that mention rewards for believers, the rewards are given in this life. You may well find that you have already enjoyed your rewards. This is especially true if you worked to get noticed by others.
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1
that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. Matthew 6:4
So, given these things, it seems to me that it would be much better to simply follow Jesus and do what He says. When He leads you to do something, do it without thinking of it as a good work or something that might lay up a reward in Heaven. He will take care of the rewards. Instead, you just walk with Him. I think this is the attitude of those Jesus honors
34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40
As far as these people were concerned, they couldn’t even think of a time when they did something like this for Jesus. They were just walking in His Spirit.
When the day comes for me to enter Heaven, I will be so amazed, so grateful, so excited, so blessed to be there that I will have one very simple goal: to see Jesus. I’ll take anything the Lord wants to give me, but seeing Him will be enough reward for me.
Always interested in your thoughts!