The Timing of Rewards
A popular television commercial in years past had a burly auto mechanic telling his hapless customer, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” That is, you can either pay for preventive maintenance up front, or pay for repairs after the car breaks down—but you will pay. The underlying message was that the wise will be rewarded for their foresight with a car that lasts much longer.
Jesus Christ used a somewhat similar line of thought when teaching his disciples about rewards for faithfulness in the kingdom of God. He stepped back from the details of the spiritual life and painted a two-panel picture: There is “this present age” and “the age to come” (Mark 10:30). Should a person seek to gain comfort and reward in this age, there will be no reward in the age to come. But, should a person choose not to enjoy the comforts and rewards which this age can offer, he or she will enjoy ample rewards in the age to come.
Take faithfulness to Christ that results in persecution in this age. Certainly, being persecuted or martyred for one’s faith is not very “rewarding” in the vocabulary of this present age. But should one be willing to suffer persecution for Christ, “Rejoice . . . because great is your reward in heaven.” Those who choose the pleasures of this world over Christ “have already received [their] comfort” and should expect no reward from God. Jesus also offers other examples of taking our rewards now or taking them later: Acts of righteousness such as giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18). If we do all of those good works in front of people in order to gain their praise, then their praise is our reward. But if we do them in secret so that only God knows about them, then he will reward us later—sometimes even in this age (Mark 10:30).
God has built choices into the fabric of our lives. While the temptation is great to choose the immediate rewards of this world, God’s rewards for our faithfulness will be far sweeter. Rewards now or rewards later? In the end, only one will cause us to “leap for joy.”
God’s Promise to You: “Nothing you do for me in secret will go unrewarded in heaven.”
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