“The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)
Each one of us will have our works examined and we will give an account to God for them. Later on in the same chapter of Corinthians it says what will happen to all of our works:
“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
All the dead works we talked about last week will be burned away.
We get an idea of how Jesus is going to judge our works in Mark 12. Jesus was watching the people putting money into the temple treasury: “…Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money.” (Mark 12:41). He saw the actual gift, the motivation and resourcefulness of each person. He also observed the attitude of people as they made a public show of their ‘generosity.’ Jesus did this through His limited human nature, but one day He will do it as God, the all-knowing judge who knows every motivation of our hearts.
As we come to realise that Jesus is the one who judges us rightly, we are released from what others may think and say about us. The apostle Paul puts it clearly in 1 Corinthians: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)
The bible also encourages us to carry out our works in secret as our heavenly rewards far outweigh any rewards this earth can offer: “…And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).
It is clear throughout scripture that Jesus is for rewards. We really shouldn’t be too pious to dismiss them. Our motivation, of course, is always to please Jesus but we should also be eager to receive the gifts He has promised. By playing down rewards we are playing down the joy of the Giver who is outstandingly generous and delights in giving extravagantly.
The apostle Paul didn’t seem too worried about working towards and gaining a reward:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
The danger of ‘ought to’.
Finally on this whole subject of our works: It is a very common trap in Christian circles to busy ourselves doing things we feel we ‘ought to do’. In fact we can burn out by attempting to do everything that needs to be done, feeling overwhelmed by our task. It is so important that we find out exactly what God’s will is for our lives and concentrate on that. We will always find good and noble works to do that occupy our time. God has not called us to save the world on our own – He has a specific plan. Be like Jesus: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)
After all, He said that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He has uniquely gifted you for the task He has given you to do. It may be hard but it is do-able, because a loving father would never give his child a task to do that the child is not suited to. If you find your work load impossible, you need to go back to God and ask Him what it is that you are doing that maybe He has called somebody else to do.