This is a topic that I have touched upon in the past, and one that I really feel compelled to write about at this time. I know that the question that I have posed in the title of this blog is enough to give some traditional Christians apoplexy (I've always wanted to use that word in a sentence). And since the idea of working for rewards can send some of the Faithful into a state of speechlessness and extreme anger, then I believe it is time for us to discuss this issue in the light of God's Word.
Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating "working" for your salvation. I am fully aware that Salvation is a free gift from God (in return for our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior), and cannot be earned. So, I want to reassert my position ... Salvation cannot be earned and is not the reward(s) I am talking about.
But I want to leave no doubt that Rewards and Treasure and Recompense are very real benefits for faithful Christians, and CAN be earned. In fact, when you realize what Jesus and God's Word says about them, we should all be earnestly seeking them. But I'm afraid that this message has not been successfully conveyed to the Body of Christ, and too many Believers are satisfied with Salvation alone. But this is not God's desire!
Here's what I think .... we Christians can all agree that our works have nothing to do with getting us into Heaven. But how many understand that our works will be weighed once we get there, and will determine the rewards we receive? We all understand our Salvation. Now we need to understand the greater issue of Reward. As an early mentor of mine pointed out, "Jesus tells us that in His Father's House there are many rooms, and He is going ahead to prepare a place for us. Salvation can be looked upon as our entry into our Father's House -- it gets you into the foyer. But the works you have done for the Father after receiving His gift of Salvation will gain you access to the rest of the rooms, and your reward(s)". I like that picture.
I realize that there are those Christians who will argue that everyone will be treated equally in Heaven, and will point to Matthew 20:1-15, and the parable of the landowner who pays his laborers equal wages, regardless of when they began working for him that day. But they are missing the context of that parable. It comes right after Jesus has witnessed to the rich young Gentile ruler about treasure in the kingdom of heaven, and Peter and the disciples question Him about what they can expect to receive as their reward. Jesus answers them that they will receive their just reward, but that there will be those who enter the Kingdom at the end of this Age who will also be received. It wasn't about equal rewards, but equal entry based on faith in Him.
So, what does the Word say about the rewards we can expect to receive? I don't know how one can ignore the implication of rewards when Jesus says in Matthew 16:27, For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. And the Bible closes with this admonition from Jesus in Revelation 22:12, Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
Jesus also admonishes us to store up for ourselves "treasures in heaven" instead of seeking the world's rewards and recognition, which are not lasting. By doing the works that Jesus did here on earth, in His Name -- serving others, healing the sick, casting out demons; yes, even raising the dead -- we will be paid rewards in heaven for those services unto the Kingdom. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 clearly shows that if you do a lot with what God has given you; you will get a greater reward in Heaven. If you squander what God has given you; don’t be surprised to find that your reward is much less.
J. Warner Wallace, on the website Cold Case Christianity, writes, "Some will work here on earth to create something persevering, and as a result, will obtain an enduring reward in Heaven. Others will not produce enduring work here on earth, and while they will still be saved, their reward in heaven will be nothing more than Salvation (“he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire”). Wallace is quoting 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, in which Paul wrote that the quality of each man's work will be tested by fire, and "If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss"; even though he is saved. But do Christians ever ask themselves, "What will he lose"? Certainly not his Salvation. That is made clear in the Word. He will lose out on rewards in heaven because of the lack of works here on earth! He will be in His Father's House [in Heaven] but won't get past the foyer!
But it's more than just the reward of Crowns he will lose -- which like the 24 elders in Revelation 4, we will want to cast at the feet of Jesus because only He is worthy of glory and honor. There will be the loss of greater degrees of joy and responsibility and authority. Who wouldn't want to receive all that plus eternal life (Salvation)?
I think by God's Grace, our Father wants us to get all the rewards we can. But it is incumbent upon us to make sure we don't lose out on them by seeking to do the works that Jesus did to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. That means realizing that we can lose or forfeit any portion of our rewards if we don't live a life called by God .... we must love our fellow man enough to share God's Truth; we must comfort and give to the poor and needy; we must see with spiritual eyes and hear the Holy Spirit with spiritual ears so that we can partner with Jesus to release people from the bondage of Satan; we must prepare ourselves to wage spiritual war, and we must be prepared and willing to sacrifice all for Him who sacrificed all for us. In the end, I pray that all Christians can come to the Truth; that they will agree with me to pledge all our labor and work in this life for His glory, in anticipation of the rewards He is waiting [and wanting] to bestow upon us.
1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—