Receiving eternal life is a free gift, obtained by faith in Christ alone for it. Our good works have nothing to do with receiving eternal life but are important because they will result in rewards in the kingdom of God. However, many believers do not live their lives in light of these rewards. Why not?
Often today we hear of people who use the services of a psychiatrist when they encounter things in their lives that don’t make sense. The Bible says that believers should work for rewards. What would a Biblically literate psychiatrist say to a believer who was struggling with this concept? I think the Bible gives us at least three pieces of advice such a psychiatrist would give, depending on the particular patient.
One reason a Christian might not be interested in rewards is because he thinks he has plenty of time before he will give an account to the Lord for how he lived his life. Perhaps he is young and thinks that his death is many years away, or he thinks the Lord is not coming back any time soon. That was what the foolish servant thought in Matt 24:48. What would a wise counselor advise such a person?
We don’t have to guess. The counselor would tell him that he is not guaranteed tomorrow. We all know numerous people who died earlier than they thought. It is also a sign of mental illness to think you can predict the future. The idea that I know when I am going to die or know when the Lord will come indicates that I have an inflated sense of my knowledge. The Biblical psychiatrist would point out that his patient’s ego is too big and that he could die or that the Lord could return for His Church before that patient even left the office.
Another reason a Christian might not be concerned about rewards is due to the exact opposite reason. His ego may be small, and he may suffer from low self-esteem. His estimation of himself may be so low he thinks it is a waste of time to even try to be great in the kingdom. Greatness in the kingdom is something that is available for others, like people who are great theologians or who are super holy. This seems to be the major issue with the servant in the parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27). He was afraid to do any work for his Lord and thought it would be better to play it safe with the opportunities given to him. It seems he was afraid of failing. He did not want to risk incurring the wrath of the Lord for deficient work, which he assumed he would do if he even tried.
We often hear from counselors today that many people suffer from low self-esteem. The Biblical counselor would tell this believer that God wants to reward His children. It is the birthright of every Christian to be great in the kingdom. Christ demonstrated His love for every believer by dying for each one, even when we were weak and helpless. The Lord often takes those the world deems insignificant and weak and exalts them. Just look at those He chose as His disciples. None of us are worthy of His grace. The Lord wants you to be great, so get to work!
Finally, there are some believers who don’t work for rewards because they don’t believe God does that kind of thing. Perhaps they have never been taught the truths about rewards, or they belong to a denominational tradition that teaches they don’t exist. Hebrews 11:6 describes this kind of possibility.
The Biblical psychiatrist would point this believer to the Scriptures. He would show his patient the very many places in the NT that teach that God will indeed reward His children for their faithfulness. He would encourage this believer to broaden his horizons, to realize that there is a great big, beautiful reality that he has never seen before. He would tell him to open his eyes to these exciting possibilities. His advice would be to let go of the shackles that had bound him. Don’t let your past hold you back.
There is something amiss with a Christian who doesn’t believe in rewards for good works. This person’s problem may be an ego that is too big or too small, or the issue may be a lack of knowledge. Fortunately, whatever the problem may be, the Bible has the prescription.