Grant’s Rants on Future Rewards
Among many Christians, an emphasis on future rewards has fallen out of fashion. My former pastor Bill Leslie used to observe, “As churches grow wealthier and more successful, their preference in hymns changes from ‘This World is Not My Home’ to ‘THIS is my Fathers World!’ ”
In the United States, at least, Christians have grown so comfortable that we no longer identify with the humble conditions Jesus addressed in the Beatitudes. What meaning can the Beatitudes have for a society that honors the self-assertive, confident, and rich? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after a good time, who look out for Number One.
Jesus had actually lived in heaven and knew well that the kingdom of heaven can easily counterbalance whatever misery we might encounter in this life. Those who mourn will be comforted; the meek will inherit the earth; the hungry will be filled. Jesus could make such promises with authority.
To believe in future rewards is to believe that the long arm of the Lord bends toward justice, to believe that one day the proud will be overthrown and the humble raised up and the hungry filled with good things.
The prospect of future rewards in no way cancels out our need to fight for justice now, in this life. Yet it is a plain fact of history that for convicts in the Soviet Gulag and slaves in America and Christians in Roman cages awaiting their turn with the wild beasts, the promise of reward was a source of hope. It keeps you alive. It allows you to believe in a just God after all.
Like a bell tolling from another world, Jesus promise of rewards proclaims that no matter how things appear, there is no future in evil, only in good.
I am convinced that for these neglected saints, who learned to anticipate and enjoy God in spite of the difficulties of their lives on earth, heaven will seem more like a long-awaited homecoming than a visit to a new place. In their lives, the Beatitudes have become true.
To people who are trapped in pain, in broken homes, in economic chaos, in hatred and fear, in violence: To these, Jesus offers a promise of a time, far longer and more substantial than this time on earth, of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace. A time of reward.
[Excerpts from “The Jesus I Never Knew“ by Philip Yancey]