Of course, we can’t be more spiritual than God. We can, however, in the pretense of being spiritual reject solid Biblical truths about God and God’s ways. We sometimes clothe these rejections in humility, but this hyper-spirituality robs us of all the spiritual fruit that these truths ought to bear in our lives. Thinking ourselves spiritually rich, we impoverish ourselves.
Part One: Too Spiritual to Care about Heavenly Reward?
I have often heard people say, “I don’t care about heavenly reward; I will be happy if I just make it into heaven. Just being with Jesus will be enough.” This sounds very humble and spiritual, right?
Yet, Jesus tells his followers again and again that they should care about heavenly reward—so much so that when persecuted they can rejoice because their “reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:12). When explaining why we should love our enemies, Jesus points out that we have no reward if we love only those who love us (Matthew 5:46). Jesus also warns that those who serve God to be seen have their reward in full, but those who serve God secretly will be repaid by God. In same part of Matthew 6, Jesus urges believers to lay up treasures for themselves in heaven. Why would Jesus tell us to seek after heavenly reward if doing so makes us less spiritual?
Paul also cared intensely about heavenly reward and speaks of the importance of work that can pass the test of fire and be revealed as having eternal value (I Corinthians 3:13). Paul says that after fighting the good fight, he will be awarded a crown of righteousness that has been laid up for him (II Timothy 4:8). In his letter to the Philippians Paul declares that he presses on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). It is silly to think not caring about heavenly reward can make us more spiritual than Paul.
What is heavenly reward? In the parables of Jesus (the talents and minas), Jesus declares that those who are faithful in little will be entrusted with much. In Matthew it says the faithful will be trusted with many things (25:22). In Luke’s version of the parable those who were faithful were put in charge of cities (19:17). In both parables the servant who failed to invest and use the money given him was called worthless and lazy. Our crown of glory is having become a servant that God can trust with big things because in this life we have been faithful in little things. Our reward will be reigning with Christ over a new heaven and new earth. Pretty cool! Much better than sitting on clouds with harps.
Many believers, however, never think about heavenly reward. Heavenly reward should be so real that we rejoice in persecution and are set free to love even our enemies. Too many churches are looking for only the rewards in the here and now–all the accepted signs of success. An eye toward heavenly reward should free the church from an idolatry of results and the tyranny of cost/benefit analysis.
When our treasure is in heaven we are free to invest in people and causes that will never pay-off in the economy of earth. The practical result of caring about heavenly reward is gritty faithfulness and trustworthiness. It is extravagant generosity with our time and resources toward those who can never pay us back. We must be heavenly-minded enough to be of some earthly good.