Jesus teaches that there will be rewards in heaven. Doesn’t this contradict grace?

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The Bible clearly teaches that Christians will be rewarded in heaven for the good works they do on earth. While this seems to make sense to some, others of us find this confusing.

HERE’S THE CONCERN…
When someone finally gets hold of the fact that God accepts them because of His grace and not their good works, they find themselves doing good works because they have already been given something, not because they want to get something. 

> They do not love in order to get God to love them. They love because God first loved them.
> They do not serve in order to get God to serve them. They serve because God first served them.
> They do not forgive in order to get God to forgive them. They forgive because God first forgave them.

So when Jesus teaches that there will be rewards in heaven for doing good works on earth, many of us are confused.

Are we meant to love others because God first loved us, or because we want to get rewards in heaven? Or is there more than one reason to love? How does this all work?

Here’s some things to consider…

#1. THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE BUT WE WILL BE REWARDED BECAUSE OF OUR WORKS

The Apostle Paul spoke about believers who will be in heaven because of their faith in Jesus, but will miss out on rewards in heaven because they did not give their life to doing good works: “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

Bruce Wilkinson summarized it like this: “Our eternal destination is the consequence of what we believe on earth. Our eternal compensation is the consequence of how we behave on earth”.

#2. THE BIBLE SEEMS TO INDICATE THAT THE REWARDS WE RECEIVE ARE NOT ABOUT GETTING SOMETHING, BUT ABOUT BEING ENTRUSTED WITH SOMETHING

Although the Bible is not clear in spelling out exactly what eternal rewards look like, it gives a strong indication that they are not what we might expect. Consider the following…

A) The greatest reward is an opportunity to serve Jesus
When a person becomes a Christian, their desires begin to change. Although they still have a sinful nature which loves sin and craves sin, they also have the Holy Spirit who gives them a desire to serve God. With this in mind, what would be the greatest reward God could give a Christian? Surely the greatest reward would be to fulfil the Christian’s greatest desire, and the Christian’s greatest desire is to be with Jesus and serve Him.

B) If we are faithful with little, we will be entrusted with more
In the “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) and the “Parable of the 10 Minas” (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus makes is clear that if we are faithful with the small opportunities we’re given to serve Him, then He will entrust us with greater opportunities to serve Him. It isn’t entirely clear whether those greater opportunities will come in this life, the life to come, or both. But given that Christians will be serving God in heaven, it it certainly seems reasonable to assume that those who were trustworthy on earth will be given greater responsibility in heaven.

C) Some will be rewarded with an opportunity to rule
Bruce Wilkinson explains: “Exactly how much opportunity will faithful stewards receive in heaven? So much that in the upside-down kingdom of heaven, the highest word for serving is ruling. We can trace this surprising reversal to the Garden of Eden. Remember that at Creation God made both woman and man for a particular task— to serve Him on earth by stewarding His creation. Jesus confirmed this purpose when He told His disciples that their reward in heaven for serving Him here would be to sit on twelve thrones and judge the tribes of Israel (Matthew 19: 28)… Ruling is also the reward for serving we see in Jesus’ parables of faithful stewards. Did you notice? In the mina parable, the highest reward for service was to “have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19: 17). And in the Parable of the Talents, the reward is similar—“ I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25: 21, 23)”.[1]

Therefore the eternal rewards we receive may have nothing to do with getting something for ourselves, and all to do with what we can do for God and others. 

[1] Wilkinson, Bruce (2012-04-04). A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever (Breakthrough Series) (p. 74). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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