Do you like winning prizes? The feeling of your vote helping win an election? The spiking elation and roar when your favorite team scores a critical goal for a championship? What about a notice from an attorney that you received an inheritance from a forgotten relative or a friend? These are emotional moments. Inheritance, prize and crown – teacher and writer R.T. Kendall says the New Testament scriptures use these three words to describe reward.
R.T. Kendal says, inheritance, prize and crown are fairly interchangeable in the New Testament. His message shines with his personal hope, desire and expectation of one day standing in front of God in the heavenly realm, and hearing the words, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” These words from our Master are our great reward for staying faithful.
Pursuing spiritual rewards loses the selfish undertones when we understand their chief purposes are rooted in relationship and worship! Let’s dig into this idea some:
The biblical concept of giving has reward imbedded in it. The Trinity is an overflow of love. Agape love is not stagnant, it is flowing. Love gives. It begins with God giving us his love through the gift of life, of being born. Fearfully and wonderfully formed in our mother’s womb. But life here continues with the opportunity to say, “Yes!” to God and receive the gift of faith in him. At that moment, we inherit an eternal family. This relational gift of grace is huge but there is still more…
In my practical devotional guide, Love Your Enemy: A 30-Day Guide, I share Jesus’ insight in Matthew 5:46: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” In broader context, Jesus instructs us to love enemies and then clearly implies a reward for loving them. My main point in the book, regarding a situation like this, is that winning an eternal friend is our best reward.
When you arrive in the heavenly realm one day, you will be desperate. Read through Isaiah 6 and Revelation 5. These are stories of two prophets each caught up in the third heaven by the Spirit and into the throne room of God. Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” It’s useful to remember, the throne room is a place of incredible angelic worship, and here, Isaiah is deeply exposed to the presence of Creator God. He is despairing for something to say, some word of worship, something to offer, anything…
When you stand in the presence of the True King, you are desperate to give something, anything to him. It is like a holy terror sweeping over you as you urgently soul search for something to offer him. This bring us to John in Revelation 4 where Elders are casting their crowns down before the throne. It is the preceding context of Revelation 5 where John, who has entered through a door into the heavenly throne room stands in a deluge of awe. A mighty angel proclaims, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” And John begins to feel that sheer desperation to give, to offer help, as no one is found worthy.
In a moment, John is like Isaiah was, desperate to give but having nothing to offer. Elders have crowns to throw down, John has nothing. In both stories, John and Isaiah are given help. In John’s case, one of the Elders comes and says, “Don’t worry, The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Jesus) has won, he will do this.”
My simple points are these:
Any spiritual reward, inheritance, prize or crown, including the friends we win has its ultimate meaning in being given back to God as worship.
When you stand before God one day, you will be glad you have some reward to give back to him in worship. Even if it came from obedience to him, you will desperately want to cast a crown (or a thousand) at his feet.
Note: You can also read some my other thoughts on rewards in this 2020 blog: https://www.marcusjyoung.co/blog/the-top-rewards-plan