There can be a tendency among believers to be “spiritual” in a way not supported by Scripture.
For example, there is a relative lack of teaching in the Church on the eternal reward which will be given to each believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
1 Corinthians 3:12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
It’s clear that our eternal reward is based on the quality of our works for the Lord while on earth. Although we all receive the same salvation—all believers will have a place in the Father’s house—we will not all receive the same reward in the next age. Moreover, the quantity of our works may be equally important as the quality.
Luke 19:12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ …15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
We see that the size of each servant’s reward was proportional to his production. The servant who earned ten minas for his master was rewarded with authority over ten cities in his kingdom. The servant who earned five minas received authority over five cities. Therefore while the quality of each person’s work for the Lord is important as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 3, the parable above teaches that quantity of production for the Lord is also an important factor in the determination of our eternal reward in the next age.
But teaching on eternal reward is seldom heard
Unfortunately, this subject is rarely taught in the evangelical Church. One reason is that in the centuries-long wake of Luther’s Reformation in the 15th Century protesting the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by works, not a few pastors neglect to teach about the important role of good works in the life of the believer—placing much more emphasis instead on grace. We are saved by grace through faith, not by works. It’s all free since Jesus has already paid the price for us. Good works, therefore, have been cast in a relatively unfavorable light and their role has been minimized.
Works therefore are seen—perhaps unconsciously and unwittingly—as “unspiritual.” By contrast, teachings on grace and faith are very popular. (But we conveniently forget that faith without works is dead.)
We are taught that we cannot earn God’s grace by doing good works. Yes, salvation is by grace. But eternal reward which is above and beyond salvation is related to the quality and quantity of our works in obedience to the Lord’s holy commands. Yet serving the Lord for eternal reward in the next age is still somehow seen as “unspiritual.”
We ought to serve God simply because we love Him and therefore we obey Him. Understood. But why would the Bible include the Scriptures above if not to give us understanding of eternal reward and to encourage us to do good works in order to receive our reward later?
We will be busy reigning with Christ over his kingdom
Another popular line of reasoning says that in the next age we will all be overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord, and will give little thought to eternal reward. Like the twenty-four elders in Revelation, we are told, we will be spending eternity on our faces before the Lamb. Why then should we be concerned about our eternal reward?
Scripture rather teaches that we will also be reigning with Christ in his kingdom. We will be busy ruling during his millennial kingdom.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
Our eternal reward in the next age in part will consist of authority to reign for Christ. This authority will vary from believer to believer according what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Fruitful obedience is better than “sacrifice”
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Therefore obedience to the Lord’s commands is important. The very last command given by the Lord before his ascension to the right hand of the Father is known as the Great Commission. We are to disciple all nations, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded his disciples. And before we can disciple them, we must preach the gospel to them and bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And as we have seen above, the quantity of our production is equally important to its quality in the determination of our reward. Therefore genuine faithfulness should result in actual fruit for the kingdom of God—high-quality fruit.
Some believers are called to “full-time” work in the Great Commission, while others may be called more to support them in prayer and with their finances. However we may be called to serve and work for the Lord, we want to be maximally fruitful in what we do. If we are engaged in the business world, then we may called to serve by supporting the work of the Great Commission with our finances—in a way that will produce maximum fruit for the kingdom of God.
To better understand this, take the analogy our financial investments. We want to invest in that which will give us the maximum return on our investment. The same can be true of “investing” in the work of the Great Commission. We want the maximum return for the kingdom of God in return for our investment—our giving. We want the maximum “bang for the buck.” Maximum return means greater production for the Lord, leading to maximum eternal reward for us before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Therefore invest and give with wisdom
We should therefore take care to “invest” our giving in ministries which are producing optimum fruit for the kingdom of God in terms of both quality and quantity.
Such thinking at first glance would appear to be “unspiritual.” If we are truly spiritual, it is thought, we would simply love God and give no “selfish” thought to our eternal reward—much less optimizing it. The consequence of this thinking is that when we give, we give according to our feelings, our habits and traditions. And when we give to God sacrificially—regardless of what church or mission receives our offering—we are considered “spiritual” and “faithful.” But being faithful is more than simply having good intentions or “doing one’s best.” It means actually getting the job done for the Lord. In the parable of Matthew 25, only the two servants who actually succeeded in doubling their master’s money were praised by the master as “good and faithful” and were rewarded with authority over “many things.” The third servant who had nothing to show was punished. He was not rewarded for any good intentions or warm feelings he may have had. Real faithfulness produces actual fruit for the Lord.
But in the area of giving we often give without careful consideration to what will produce maximum fruit for the kingdom of God on earth. What is popularly considered “spiritual” may in fact be “pseudo-spiritual.” The mark of true spirituality is not acting according to our feelings and church traditions, but rather in productive & fruitful obedience to what scripture teaches.
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
John 4:36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
Revelation 22:12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
Having good intentions when we give is a good start, but that’s all they are. Our reward will be according to what we have actually accomplished in obedience to the Lord’s commands.
From the mission field
In May 2014 three small Feeding Events costing $1600 were conducted in Haridwar State in North India. These events were financed by us and our supporters, and conducted entirely by local Elijah Challenge-trained servants of God. Approximately 700 Hindus accepted Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior. In terms of cost per soul receiving Christ, that works out to a bit over $2 per soul.
Contrast that with the cost to train, send and support a foreign missionary from the West. Supporting such a missionary and his family can cost at least $50,000 per year—usually much more than that. Moreover, such foreign missionaries are usually not as effective as native Indian servants of God in communicating the gospel to Hindus. Some missionaries who have spent years on the mission field have seen very few converts to Christ.
We have concluded that it is far more cost effective, productive and fruitful to train, send, and support local Indian servants of God. That is the mission of The Elijah Challenge.
Would you prefer to be given charge over ten cities or over five cities?
Whatever our calling might be or what we are called to support, we can rightly ask ourselves the question: Would I rather be given charge over “ten cities” in the next age, or over “five cities”? If we have a say in the matter and would prefer the former, then we should pray and ask the Lord to give us wisdom to produce the kind of fruit which will result in such a reward. Is it wrong to do what it takes to receive a $10,000 per month retirement instead of a $5,000 monthly benefit after retiring if it does not involve sinning against God? I think we all would agree it is not wrong at all.
So it is with eternal reward. I believe that the Lord is even pleased—whatever our calling may be—when we work harder and more wisely in order to produce more fruit for Him in anticipation of hearing Him say to us at His Judgment Seat: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”