Read: Matthew 19
Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27, NLT)
Most of us think about it, few of us ever express it. I am talking about rewards. For some reason, in the church world we think it is somehow unspiritual to bring up the idea of recognition and compensation in this life and the one to come for the things we’ve done in service for our Lord. It seems, well, unseemly. It’s poor form. It reveals ulterior, perhaps even dark motives to dare talk about what we might get out of the following Jesus deal.
But the thing is, we are actually being more “spiritual” than Jesus when we suppress what is simply a God-given impulse to expect to be rewarded for doing what is good and right. Of course, doing things only for what I might get out of it rather than a motive of love and gratitude for what has been undeservedly done for me is never a good thing. With that said, let’s just acknowledge once and for all that Jesus talked openly and frequently about the benefits and blessings that would come our way for doing the right thing.
When Peter asked, in essence, “Hey Jesus, we’ve done quite a bit for you. So what’s in it for us?”, Jesus didn’t rebuke him. There were other times Peter’s speak-before-you-think outbursts drew the Master’s ire, but not this time. Instead, Jesus gave him an immediate answer:
“Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:28-30, MSG)
Rewards are part and parcel of the Kingdom Life. So don’t be afraid to think about them once in a while—or a lot. Believe me, what you might think God has in store for your faithful service to him is far less than you could ever imagine. God has some big plans for you!
Now there are just a couple of caveats to keep in mind as you dream: First, the rewards Jesus talked about were rarely ever expressed in terms of material things. And that should be no surprise. Material things are temporal, so don’t spend too much time dreaming about stuff that will only end up in a garage sale, or in the junk heap or in the dustbin of history. Second, remember that the greatest reward comes to those who are not seeking it. If you are seeking it, chances are you think you deserve it, that you can earn it. That is sort of the accountant’s approach to Christianity—checking off your debits and credits. But the greatest reward comes to those whose efforts are simply to pay back the un-repayable and insurmountable debt of love they owe to a gracious and merciful Redeemer.
Of course, that brings up the paradox of Christian reward: Jesus talked about it enough that we ought to have the freedom to talk about it too, but those who are in love are always in debt, and the idea of reward rarely, if ever, enters their minds.
“If men and women all their lives have sought to walk with God, if they have sought to obey their Lord, if goodness has been their quest through all their days, then throughout their lives they have been growing closer and closer to God, until in the end they pass into God’s nearer presence, without fear and with radiant joy—that is the greatest reward of all.” ~William Barclay
What If God Took Over?
Offer this prayer: “Dear God, simply knowing you is the greatest reward I could ever hope for. Thank you for the privilege of being brought close to you and held in your arms as a treasured child. Thank you for the blood of your Son Jesus Christ who made it all possible. I will forever be grateful. Anything beyond that is simply icing on the cake!”