Do We Earn Rewards in Heaven?
Do we get rewards in heaven for the good things we do here on earth? Does the idea of earning rewards in heaven make you cringe with thoughts of the prosperity gospel, or of being motivated by the wrong things?
Does the idea of earning rewards in heaven make you cringe?
Let's look both at what the Bible says, and why so many have a negative reaction to this idea.
First, we cannot earn our entry into heaven. The Bible makes this very clear. Eternity with God is His free gift for all who believe.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
But the Bible does talk about being rewarded to varying degrees once we are in heaven, based on the things we do here on earth.
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…" Matthew 6:20
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6
"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds." Matthew 16:27
"By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward." Hebrews 11:24-26
"Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12
Still, many of us have a gut reaction that if our actions are motivated by rewards in heaven, then they are not truly motivated by love.
To understand this reaction, consider a husband who buys his wife some flowers. When she sees the flowers, she is overjoyed! Anyone would say the husband was showing her love. Now imagine the wife then opens her purse, pulls out some cash and hands it to her husband as his reward, which the husband was expecting.
Suddenly it seems like the flowers were not motivated by love anymore! But is this really the same thing that is happening with our rewards in heaven? When we read of heavenly “rewards,” it is easy to equate them with money or something equivalent, but that is a false picture.
Consider again the husband giving his wife flowers, this time with no money involved.
Does he still receive some reward? Does he stoically hand her the flowers with a straight face, making sure to take no joy or pleasure in the event? Or does he smile and experience joy at seeing his wife enjoy receiving the flowers? Isn't that a reward for the husband? But we would still say that his actions were loving. The husband's reward was rooted in the joy of the person he was blessing. That is the kind of reward we should be working for.
Another common stumbling block is when we consider rewards to come at the expense of others. For example, in a race, there is only one winner, and they get the reward, to the exclusion of others. But heavenly rewards are not like this, we can encourage everyone to work for the same rewards in heaven and we would all benefit from them together.
It is possible to love while still receiving a reward.
So we see that it is possible to love while still receiving a reward, but perhaps not the kind of reward we often think of. Remember, the bible talks about earning rewards in heaven, not here on earth. That's why this is not the false “prosperity gospel”, which (wrongly) “guarantees” earthly material rewards for our actions. God may still choose to bless us materially here on earth, but that is not guaranteed. What is guaranteed though are His non-material blessings now, and even greater rewards in heaven.
Being rewarded means receiving something we value. If we value winning a race, then winning is our reward. If we value money, then a cash prize is our reward, etc.
Jesus will be our greatest value in heaven.
So, what will we value most in heaven? Will it be money? Definitely not! Jesus will be our greatest value in heaven. Our greatest delight will be knowing Him and experiencing His glory.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 17:4
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, … Philippians 3:10
Is it wrong to want to enjoy Christ more in heaven? Certainly not! The more good deeds we do on earth, the more of this kind of reward we will have in heaven. Jesus tells us to store up our treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33, Luke 18:22).
Too many of us are satisfied with just getting into heaven when God wants so much more for us!
Too many of us are satisfied with just getting into heaven when God wants so much more for us! Everyone in heaven will be happy, but some will be happier, and experience more joy than others, because of their rewards. The ones with lesser rewards will not be jealous or experience regret, but rather will be happy for those with the greater rewards. They, in turn, will not look down on those with lesser rewards, but will rather be full of humility and thankfulness (1 Corinthians 12:26). But now is the time to decide which of those two positions you wish to be in.
The Bible encourages us to think constantly about heaven:
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col. 3:2).
How do we do this? Matthew 6:21 says:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If we make heavenly rewards our treasure, our heart (and mind) go there naturally.
There are many ways to increase our rewards in heaven. One simple and effective way is to pray for and support another follower of Jesus in carrying the gospel to those who are far from God.
Ergatas makes it simple to find and connect with Kingdom Workers who are investing their lives in the same concerns God has given you. Start with $10 or $25 a month and see where God leads you from there.