When it came to the treasures of heaven, Jesus spoke of them often and in most extreme terms. Though I am well aware of this, to be honest, I would have expected His teaching on rewards to have been different; that He would have challenged His followers to serve God motivated solely by love, thankfulness, or moral rightness. Jesus should have insisted that God be worshipped, obeyed, and served simply for who He is (His nature) and what He has done (His acts). My opinion notwithstanding, Jesus consistently talked directly or indirectly about storing up treasures in heaven and at times singled out those rewards as being the motivation for earthly service and sacrifice.
It occurs to me that there are several of reasons the promises of eternal rewards do not get more traction with people (myself included).
1) The first could be that a person wishes to serve or give simply out of love for God without any contract to gain from it. I would like to think that I am driven by that kind of idea but in truth reason #2 and #3 more accurately describe what motivates my thinking.
2) The second reason we don’t think too often or too deeply about eternal rewards is the weakness of our faith and the dimness of our spiritual perception. It is much easier for us to be motivated by an earthly reward like a new Mercedes than a much greater reward to be received in heaven after our earthly life is over. In short, how much do your believe in heaven?
3) The third reason is that given enough financial capacity, we can create such an idyllic life for ourselves, free from ills and anguish that characterize the lives of most people on this planet, that our greatest hopes are in this life not the next. That is one of the chief corrosive effects of wealth. Were we to live in a time and place other than in the most prosperous nation in history, we would be more likely to say as did the apostle Paul, “If we apostles have only to hope in this life, we are to be pitied above all men.”
A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT ETERNAL REWARDS
The apostle Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” That is an amazing statement, because I can think of a lot of stuff.
Could it be that for the one cup of water offered in the name of Christ, for that single act of obedience, for one sacrifice made for the sake of Christ, the heavenly reward would far outweigh all the, fame, privilege, power, and pleasure that accumulate wealth of this world could provide? Whatever the exchange rate might be, I am certain that it is beyond anything we could ask or think.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his introduction to The Great Divorce. “I, believe to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in “the High Counties.”
We are to be sojourners in this life and citizens of heaven. Perhaps a test of our true citizenship is how we anticipate our greatest rewards; whether they are the rewards of this life or the ones in the next. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”