Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rewards and Selfishness

The following is an excerpt from a journal article by Zane C. Hodges, found at Grace Evangelical Society

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Another problem some Christians have with the doctrine of rewards is that this doctrine seems to them to appeal to our "selfishness." Such Christian brothers may go on to say that we do not need to be motivated this way. Instead, we ought to do all that we do for God out of love and gratitude to Him.

This point of view, however, confronts a serious problem of its own. Not only is a doctrine of rewards taught in Scripture, but we are actually commanded to pursue them.

Thus Jesus said:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth... 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 6:19-21).

We may observe here that our Lord does not present the pursuit of heavenly treasure as though it were optional. On the contrary, it is clear that He wants every disciple of His to lay up this celestial wealth.

The reason for this is also stated. Wherever our treasure happens to be, that's where our hearts will be focused. And God wants our hearts to be focused on heaven and that is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards.

God knows better than we do what will captivate our hearts for Him. Evidently, rewards play a significant role in this.

It may sound pious for someone to say: "I am not interested in rewards! I serve God out of love and gratitude alone!" But such a person is claiming to be more loftily motivated than even the Apostle Paul himself! He wrote:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Obviously Paul was not "running" to obtain his justification or his eternal salvation! Those things were already his by grace alone. It follows then that Paul is talking about the "reward"—the prize—that could be won by a person who ran a winning race.

Obviously, too, Paul is highly motivated by the thought of winning this prize. He dedicates himself to obtaining it with the same intense self-discipline that characterizes the superior athlete.

Those who disparage rewards as a powerful Christian motivation ought to read their NT again—this time, with their eyes open!

But is this motivation selfish? We believe that no motivation encouraged by the Lord Jesus and His Apostles could ever possibly be termed "selfish"!

What is wrong, in fact, is our own incorrect view of "selfishness. Scripture does not teach us to be uninterested in our own happiness or well-being. The very desire to escape eternal damnation is a legitimate and urgent self-interest. The instinct to preserve our lives is the same. Nor are pleasure and enjoyment illegitimate experiences.

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, He furnished them with every tree... that is pleasant to the sight and good for food" (Gen 2:9). They could enjoy themselves freely provided they abstained from eating from the one forbidden tree. Similarly, Paul tells rich people that "God… gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17; italics added).

Selfishness ought not to be defined simply as the pursuit of our own self-interest. Instead, it should be defined as the pursuit of our self-interest in our own way, rather than in God's way. Since "love" is a preeminent virtue in Christianity, true selfishness often involves a pursuit of self-interest that violates the law of love.

But no one who seriously pursues heavenly treasure can afford to be unloving. As Paul pointed out in his great chapter on love, all seemingly spiritual and sacrificial activities are reduced to nothing in the absence of love (1 Cor 13:1-3). Loveless activity will no doubt go up in billows of smoke at the Judgment Seat of Christ as though it were so much wood, hay, or stubble (1 Cor 3:11-15).

No indeed! It is not selfish to obey God by pursuing eternal rewards. Still less can someone who does so afford to be selfish in nature. For if he is, he is forfeiting the very rewards he professes to seek.

No wonder that James censures his Christian readers for showing partiality toward the rich and neglecting the poor. In doing so they violate the "royal law" of Scripture: "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself"' Jas 2:8).

A couple of verses later, James gives his fellow Christians the bottom line:

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas 2:12-13).4

The doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ and of rewards is not merely not selfish. It is one of the strongest scriptural motivations for an unselfish, loving, and merciful lifestyle!

6 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks for posting that. It is spot-on.

June 20, 2006 12:51 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Persuing eternal rewards forces us to keep our eyes on Jesus. That's a good thing.

June 20, 2006 4:28 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

"Selfishness ought not to be defined simply as the pursuit of our own self-interest...selfishness involves a pursuit of self-interest that violates the law of love."

This lesson would bless untold millions. Great quote Antonio. ;-)

June 20, 2006 6:27 AM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Thanks Antonio~~

The church very desperately needs this teaching.

June 20, 2006 9:57 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Thank you all for stopping by. It has been a while and I have been out of the fray for sometime.

As I read and study the Bible, I am more and more being convinced that the Traditionalist is blinded. The Bible is so clear! I could expound it til Jesus' parousia and still not get much headway with them.

Thank you all for the encouragement that you have all given me in the last year.

Antonio

June 20, 2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

Yes earning rewards is a great thing. Something wonderfully taught in scripture. We musn't confuse this with earning God's favor though in whatever form or teaching this is taught.

June 22, 2006 2:49 PM  

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