What do you think? Does God reward us? For doing good things, I mean.
When you do a good deed–should you expect a reward?
What do you think?
Well, here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 6:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
Does that confirm or change your answer?
This verse is from the famous “Sermon on the Mount” where Jesus is teaching a large crowd on a mountainside. He’s already talked to them about murder, adultery, divorce and loving your enemies. Some of what He says is pretty radical, like His teach on adultery.
Jesus said it was not only wrong to commit adultery, but that even looking lustfully at a woman is just like committing adultery with her. Uh oh. And He taught something similar related to murder. He said that even being angry with someone would make us subject to judgment. Another, uh oh.
Clearly, Jesus is concerned not just with our actions, but with our heart, with what is unseen by others, but seen by God.
Do you ever stop to think about that? God sees what others don’t see. He sees the things you do that no one else sees. He sees your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your motives.
And He cares about all those things.
So back to our question: does God reward us for good deeds?
Jesus didn’t say the Father wouldn’t rewards us–only that if we do our good deeds, our “acts of righteousness”, to be seen only by others, then that’s all the reward we’ll get.
It’s not a question of whether or not we’ll receive a reward. It’s simply a matter of who is doing the rewarding. The audience we’re seeking to please and be noticed by matters.
Jesus goes on in Matthew 6 to talk about several “acts of righteousness.” Giving to the needy, praying and fasting. Each time, He tells us to be careful that we don’t do those things to be noticed by others. If we do, the attention from others will be the only reward we’ll get.
If, however, we do those things in secret, with an audience of One in mind, then Jesus very clearly says that God will reward us. How will He reward us? Jesus doesn’t say. He just says we’ll be rewarded.
This doesn’t mean that we should never do something good if others will see it. For example, if a friend (or a stranger) is in need and you give them some money–it doesn’t mean you won’t be rewarded. Remember, it’s a heart issue. Whose attention are you after?
Later in the chapter, Jesus tells us not to worry about our physical needs. He never says they’re not important, in fact, He tells us, “…your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
Your boss might not know you need more money. Your friends and neighbors might not know. And they might not even care. But God knows. And God cares.
God sees you. He sees your needs. And He cares.
Jesus doesn’t leave it at “do not worry” though. He tells us what to do.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
If you have placed your faith in Christ, then you have become God’s child. And He is now responsible for you. He promises to meet your needs. Of course, we have some responsibility in the matter as well. One of the primary ways God provides for us is through work. We work, we earn money, and we’re able to get what we need.
But don’t miss what Jesus said. We are to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. Rather than giving all of our energy to earning money and accumulating more stuff–Jesus says to put energy into seeking God and what’s on His heart. And He will provide for our physical needs. When we seek God and live responsibly, we don’t have to worry. We can trust God to provide.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. To be “earnest” means “a serious and intent mental state, a considerable or impressive degree or amount.”
Serious. Considerable. Impressive amount.
Does that describe your effort in seeking God? Would you time in prayer and in God’s word be described as an “impressive amount?”
Now before you start to think this all sounds very formulaic or legalistic–it’s not. Anything and everything we receive from God is by grace. My best efforts and behavior don’t put God in my debt. He doesn’t owe me anything. Ever.
And yet, God rewards those who seek Him. Galatians 6:7 says, “A man reaps what he sows.”
It’s just the way God set up the universe to work. Sow corn, reap corn. Sow wheat, reap wheat. Sow time seeking God, reap God’s reward. Do you think God did it that way because He wants us to seek Him? Do you think maybe He likes it when we give serious effort to it?
The same system is in place when it comes to giving. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
Now some people will say we shouldn’t give to get. And what I would say is that we shouldn’t give just to get. But there’s nothing wrong with giving and expecting God to give back to me. Why? Because He said He would. Why would I not expect God to do what He said he would do?
So does God give rewards?
He rewards us for things done in secret with right motives.
He rewards us for seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.
He rewards us for seeking Him with serious effort.
He rewards us by giving back to us when we give.
The question really isn’t, “Does God give rewards?” He does. That’s clear.
The real question is, “Who do you want to receive your reward from and how much do you want to receive?”
When we do good things just to be noticed by others–that’s all the reward we get. And that’s not much, is it?
But if we remember that God sees what’s done in secret. He sees the kind deeds, the silent prayers, the sacrificial giving. Then we will reap a reward from our heavenly Father.
And it’s not even worth trying to speculate on all the ways God might reward you. Let Him be infinitely powerful and creative. Let Him surprise you. Just trust that He knows what you need and what is best for you at all times.
Choose to seek Him today. Do something kind for someone. Give a gift to someone. Pray for someone who needs God’s help.
Do it for an audience of One.