There is no end to the amount of feel good messages out there about how we have riches, mansions, and all kinds of blessings waiting for us in heaven, but are we being told what we need to do in order to actually earn them?
Does Anyone Actually Read The Fine Print
It is human nature, and no secret, but we typically want to get the largest reward possible for the least amount of effort
That approach is fine when deciding what exercise program to follow or when trying to save money on big purchases, but when it comes to earning our riches in heaven, we should be aware there are no shortcuts, and that heavenly rewards will not be distributed equally
Yes, despite what a lot of contemporary pastors, authors, and speakers teach, Jesus did not shy away from telling people they actually had to do things in order to be eternally blessed, which is why it is annoying so many teachers avoid telling Christians about the conditions they need to meet in order to amass riches in heaven, mainly because they are afraid of upsetting their audiences
Avoiding this topic is irresponsible, and is the worst kind of financial planning ever!
By contrast, look at what Jesus taught in regard to earning heavenly rewards, you may be surprised to find out earning them actually requires action on our part, doh!
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful
(Jesus told us that to earn rewards in heaven, we are to love our enemies in a way that follows God’s example of kindness, even going so far as to give them money without expecting to get repaid–when was the last time we lent someone we considered our enemy money, let alone did it with the thought of never getting paid back?)
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments”
“Which ones?” the man inquired
Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth
(In the story of the rich young ruler, Jesus was not advocating for everyone to sell all their possessions, he was instructing this young man, and all those who put wealth between them and God, to lay down their materialistic idols–how would we respond if Jesus asked us to do the same thing about any idol in our lives?)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first
(Jesus clearly says anything worldly we leave behind for the sake of teaching, and living, the gospel will be returned to us a hundred times over in heaven, not to mention we “will inherit eternal life” in the process! What was the last thing we left behind for the sake of following the gospel, anything?)
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you
(This one is particularly ironic, as we often try to avoid being persecuted for our faith, while Jesus taught we would be rewarded for facing persecution, oops!)
Okay, so you get the picture, we see Jesus did not teach faith was enough for us to earn endless rewards in heaven, only loving, righteous actions that honor God
To put it in even more clear terms, look how Jesus promised we will be rewarded according to what we do in life:
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 he has done
If Jesus was so clear about how we will be rewarded according to how we live, why is this not more commonly taught?
Worldly Teachers Do Not Teach Spiritual Truth Their Audiences Do Not Want To Hear
This is a painful topic, as many pastors, authors, and speakers cater to their audiences in such a way that they speak only what they want to hear, rather than speak a message of truth, regardless of whether it is received well or not
I mean honestly, most Christians cannot be bothered to open their Bibles or tithe, so it is no surprise leaders are not eager to rock the boat by telling people things like:
“You know all those heavenly riches I keep talking about, well, some of you might not get what you are expecting, in fact, some of you may actually get nothing at all because your lives revolve around worldly things”
Since human nature has not exactly changed since the early church days, look at how Paul dealt with this directly, and without worrying about whether he was going to lose some of his audience:
1 Corinthians 3:10-18
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames
Paul’s teaching is amazingly blunt, as instead of telling everyone endless riches await regardless of how we live, he openly says “if” we enter the kingdom of heaven, our lives will be examined, and if our lives were built around worldly things, we will enter heaven dirt poor with nothing, inheriting salvation “but only as one escaping through the flames”
Really think about the metaphor Paul uses here, as he is saying we are going to lose everything, and only enter the kingdom of heaven with our souls but nothing else
Yes, we will enter heaven, which is amazing in its own right, but it is not like we are going to be richly rewarded, we are going to be dirt poor compared to others around us because we actively chose to not honor God, and love others, like they did
The Only Competition We Have Is With Ourselves
Now, before people start getting upset thinking I am advocating we all drop everything and start the great eternal loot competition, or worry that I am somehow encouraging us to live righteously only for the sake of receiving a reward, that is not what I am talking about, my point is that most Christians do not understand how the choices they make today will shape how they spend eternity
The absence of teachings about this topic are ridiculously destructive, in that many heaven-bound Christians are being robbed of rewards they cannot even imagine are available to them
1 Corinthians 2:9
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him
To be fair, this eternal robbery is not just because people are reluctant to teach about it, it is also due to many Christians not wanting to believe there is any sort of performance based reward system in heaven, mainly because they find it uncomfortable to think God differentiates between us in any way–show me where that verse exists, please!
But seriously though, what kind of God would we serve if he rewarded everyone the same regardless of how they acted, not to mention how it would also contradict what is plainly written in the Bible as noted in Jesus’ teachings above
Even though we typically want everything we can possibly get, we have to understand heaven is not a loot pinata we take swings at with our comfortable, self-centered, idealistic views of what we envision heaven to be, there are conditions to being rewarded, and yes, there are different levels of rewards based on how we choose to live
Thankfully, God is the one, not our worldly ideals, who define heaven, and what gives us even more reason to be thankful, is how he gave us clear guidelines on how to build eternal wealth, and enter heaven in the first place, so if we truly believe in God’s promises, what is holding us back from chasing them–only ourselves!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son”