Why would God promise to reward you?

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson cut up his Bible? 

He didn’t believe in miracles. So he cut them out.

He didn’t believe in hell. So he cut it out. 

He didn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection. So he cut it out. 

Isn’t that horrible? Who would do that to the inspired Word of God?

We would. 

Every time we ignore a difficult part of Scripture, we’re cutting up our Bibles.

One teaching that we seem to “cut out” is eternal rewards. I’ve talked to many Christians who either minimize, explain away, or outright deny that God ever promises to grant additional rewards in heaven for faithfulness on earth.

So last week I pulled a “Thomas Jefferson.” I grabbed an old Bible, and I started cutting out all the sections that speak about rewards. And do you know what? I cut out more than 58 sections of Scripture! 

Here are just two examples:

  • Matthew 6:6: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
  • Matthew 10:42: And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

I brought that tethered Bible to church and showed my congregation. Most people were surprised to see how often God speaks about this forgotten teaching. 

But it also raised lots of questions. Some wondered, “How are we supposed to understand rewards? Does that mean heaven is a reward for my performance?”

How are we supposed to understand “eternal rewards”?

  1. Salvation is a gift of grace, NOT a reward. Salvation is a gift of God apart from works (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is NOT a reward for faithful living. You are going to heaven because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and not your performance. But God does promise rewards, in addition to heaven, for faithfulness on earth. 
  2. Eternal rewards are a good motivation for holy living. Like a good mother who rewards her daughter for keeping her room clean, God is a good Father who rewards his faithful children. Rewards are not immoral, or a lesser form of motivation, as some believe. They are a good thing promised from a good God. And a key factor anytime we make significant changes in our lives. 
  3. God promises rewards when faithfulness is difficult. As I looked at all the verses I cut out of my Bible, I noticed a trend: God seemed to promise rewards when he calls us to do something difficult. 
  • When he calls us to give our hard-earned money to the poor, he promises a reward (Matthew 6:2-4; 19-21).
  • • When he calls us to give up everything to follow him, he promises a reward (Matthew 19:27-30).
  • • When he calls us to be faithful in times of persecution, he promises a reward (Matthew 5:11,12; Revelation 2:10).
  • • Even Jesus was promised a reward for enduring suffering on the cross (Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 12:2).

God knows that you are under attack from the evil one, and your own nature is all too complicit. So, in love, he encourages you to follow him by promising to reward you. 

Give it a try.

Jesus doesn’t want us to just have a theological discussion about eternal rewards. He wants us to believe his promises and put his Word into practice (Matthew 7:24). 

So let’s say you’re trying to make a change. Maybe you’re trying to overcome an addiction to pornography. Here’s what Jesus is saying: “Yes, be motivated by God’s love. Yes, be motivated by Jesus’ sacrifice. But also remember that every time you say no to sin and yes to God, “you will surely not lose your reward.”

Pastor Ben Sadler has served as a full-time pastor since 2010. He began his ministry serving a Spanish-speaking congregation in Florida. Since March 2014, he has served at Goodview Trinity Church in Minnesota. He is married to Emily, and they have three children. Ben loves to spend time with his family, ride his road bike, read, write, and preach. 

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