I have been thinking about rewards. This is not an unusual thought as most of our lives are filled with prospects of rewards: whether it is achieving at school or sport or even work. There is normally some reward held out for us - a trophy, an increase in salary, etc. And it's no different in the Bible.
There are numerous verses that talk about us receiving a reward;
"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." (Matthew 16:27)
But what is it? What is the reward we get? It seems sort of important for us to know what it is. So what is it?
"Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:12)
We know it is linked to what we do in some way...
"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done." (Revelation 22:12)
Great...but what is it?
Is it immortality?
But how can you get more or less of that? Is it ruling over cities as the parable in Lk 19:17 suggests?
Is it homes, peace, an unspoiled world?
Maybe it is all of these, yet still it seems we are missing something. It is something more than this. These are mentioned as ancillary. The reward that is in heaven, that comes with Jesus is greater than this.
We are looking and thinking about this wrongly. We are thinking about WHAT our reward is rather than...
"After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”" (Genesis 15:1)
...We are thinking about WHAT our reward is rather than WHO our reward is.
God our reward
Our world teaches us to expect rewards to be possessions not people. We expect more money, trophies, cars, etc. Yet God's reward is far more astounding - His reward is himself! We receive the all powerful, all loving creator as our reward. Wow!
In fact if we open our eyes we see this promise everywhere.
"The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us." (1 John 3:24)
Our reward now and in the future is not so much a WHAT as it is a WHO. It is Christ in us, as Paul says when describing the riches we receive...
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
An Incredible Reward
If we truly believe we can receive the reward of Christ in us; Changing us from the inside; Making us experience life in a new way. This is God in us. What an inheritance.
What reward do we want?
What reward do we really want?
Immortality, homes, relaxation, etc. or God?
The famous so called Prodigal Son story makes this point powerfully. The young son wants the goods - now! He wants the what!
"The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them." (Luke 15:12)
He wanted the reward, the inheritance of Dad. How long was the old bullet going to take before he died. Why wait, give me the goodies now!
However when his WHAT reward vanishes he "comes to his senses" -
"I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’" (Luke 15:18-19)
He realizes it is not about WHAT but about WHO he was leaving. And so he returns and his father has never stopped loving him. The WHAT was never important.
"“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. ’ So they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:22-24)
And so the young son discovers his reward is in relationship not riches. It is in family not fortune.
However we sadly often miss the real lesson. The lesson of the older son. The one who never left. When the older brother, who has never left, returns, he is angry. And in his words he reveals his heart...
"But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’" (Luke 15:29-31)
What is he saying. He is not interested in family but fortune. Where are MY things to celebrate with MY friends. Where are MY riches? Where is MY fortune? But he does not like the Father's reply...
"'My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."
His reward, his inheritance was not his Father but his father's things. It wasn't the parent it was the possession. He is unhappy that his father said "you are always with me..." How then do I get my things?
Are we any different?
Are we obsessed with the Father or his things? Are we obsessed with God or the Gold?
If we consider for a while we would realize our reward has never been WHAT we have but WHO we have. We can have the best house, the nicest car, the most beautiful clothes but without family it's nothing. Its not WHAT it's WHO...The Psalmist makes it clear what our reward is...
"Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him." (Psalms 127:3)
It's not in what it's in who. And so what is our reward...nothing more amazing than God himself. Nothing more awesome than Jesus in us. .
"I am your shield and exceeding great reward" (Ex 15:1)