Jeff raises a great question:
I have a question about rewards. Do you think a believer earns a reward each time he does a good deed in Jesus’ name (or to honor God). In other words, as he lives each day, does he lay up gold, silver and precious stones in heaven for the good he does?
I’ve always thought this, but maybe I’m wrong.
But if we earn rewards this way, is it biblically accurate to say that these rewards are secure? That a bad deed tomorrow won’t cause a believer to lose a reward that was earned yesterday?
Though some rewards such as getting to hear Jesus say “well done” and reigning with Christ are reserved only for those who finish well, are there rewards for good deeds a believer has done throughout his life that he can’t lose once they’re earned?
Everlasting life is secure the very moment we believe in Christ (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35; 11:26). But what about eternal rewards?
Jeff is right that we earn eternal rewards for any good deeds we do (with the right motives). Let’s say that Jeff does twenty good deeds on Monday, but he also does some bad deeds. While we are accountable for all our deeds, both good and bad (2 Cor 5:10), we do reap eternal rewards for all the good deeds. Bad deeds do not negate the rewards of good deeds.
He is also right that the secure deeds are called “gold, silver, and precious stones” by Paul in 1 Cor 3:10-15. Those are not good works per se. They are works that have eternal value. Hypothetically, we could do something that we think is a good work, but that God considers “wood, hay, and straw.” Those works are works that lack eternal value. So, if you spend five hours playing golf, most of that is wood, hay, and straw. Maybe a few minutes during that time you’re talking about Christ, praying, or meditating on Scripture. But if you are like me, when you play golf you don’t pray or meditate much. Even talking about Christ is limited, even when golfing with a believer.
Jeff’s last paragraph is the key. Some rewards require endurance to the end of our Christian lives. That includes ruling with Christ, receiving His praise and approval, special white garments, hidden manna, the fruit of the tree of life, and a special white stone with the Lord’s nickname for you on it. See verses like Matt 24:45-51; 1 Cor 9:24-27; 2 Tim 2:12; 4:6-8; and Rev 2:26. I call those perseverance prizes.
But other rewards, which Jesus calls treasure reserved in heaven, are secure the moment you do a good work with the right motive. Jesus said, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:20-21). Notice that He says this treasure is secure. It won’t be destroyed or stolen. The Lord does not condition this treasure upon perseverance.
I call this type of eternal rewards instant winners.
The Lord does not say what this treasure will be or how much treasure you will get for a particular type of good work. We know that He is just and gracious and that He will reward us fairly and generously.
I think–and this is speculation–that that treasure will be treasure. That is, I think it will actually be things like gold, silver, and precious stones. I think there will be an economy in Jesus’ kingdom. So we will use money to purchase things that will glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. My guess is that the treasure will be an eternal trust fund. We will get so much money per month to use for His glory.
Perseverance prizes are different. They are the prize of ruling with Christ, along with various privileges that rulers will have.
Good question, Jeff.