Rewards = Results

Misc. Passages

Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Myers


I am a member of Costco, the warehouse store where you don't go to purchase a little of anything. As a member, I get their magazine called The Costco Connection. Normally, I don't even open the cover. It goes to junk mail heaven where all of the other catalogues and credit card offers go.

But back in March of 2003, the cover story article caught my eye, and I just had to read the article that went with it. The title of the article was "Rewards = results." The article is about an author named Bob Nelson who wrote a book in 1994 called 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. The basic premise of the book is that "workers thrive, are motivated and stick around longer by recognition of a job well done." This can be done by small gifts, or public recognition and thanks. A personal letter or note sometimes just the encouragement a person needs to work harder. There are often perks that go to diligent employees, like the opportunity to drive the boss's Mercedes around for a weekend, or the right to work from home or work flexible hours. Some places had out certificates for a free massage.

People wondered if such simple things really worked, and so Bob Nelson ran a study in which he asked store managers to use such rewards to motivate and praise their employees. At the end of the designated time, a survey was filled out, and a full 90% of the managers said that the recognition helped them motivate employees, and 84% said that these rewards helped improve employee performance at work.

They also performed a survey on the employees. Prior to the experiment, only 48% of the employees said they were satisfied with their job. After the study was completed, they performed the same survey, and job satisfaction among employees has risen to 73%.

Astounding, isn't it, what a little reward and a little recognition will do? In TIME magazine recently, I read that 39% of women would rather receive a "Thank you" from their husbands this Christmas than any other gift. That's pretty amazing when you realize that all 364 items mentioned in the Twelve Days of Christmas song would cost $66,334.  So men, if you want to get off cheap for Christmas, just tell your wife "Thank you." I'm kidding, or course, but that is how much our wives and our mothers need our thanks. A reward and recognition for a job well done is a great motivator and a wonderful encouragement to those who work hard.

This is what Bob Nelson discovered, and this is what he wrote his book about, and so far, he has sold over 1.5 million copies. To most people, this is a revolutionary idea. But Bob did not discover a new idea. He would probably be surprised to find out that the this idea of rewards and recognition for a job well done originated not in business management techniques, but in the benevolent mind of God. The idea of rewards and recognition providing motivation and encouragement is found everywhere in God's book, the Bible.  Thousands of years before Bob Nelson ever passed out his first reward to his employees, God was passing out rewards to His. Thousands of years before Bob wrote his book about rewards, God wrote His.

Yet surprisingly, it seems that Christians are the ones who drag their feet the most in embracing the Biblical teaching on rewards. We think it is selfish to want or work for rewards. We think it makes God appear like He is buying our good behavior. We think it cheapens grace or makes heaven unfair or that rewards feed off our greed.  I've heard all of the objections, and have thought them too. But the more I study rewards in Scripture, the more certain I am that rewards are one of God's primary methods of motivating Christians to obey Him. They are everywhere in Scripture. Sprinkled throughout every book of the Bible are promises of blessings for obedience, and warnings of loss of reward for disobedience.

Originally, in our current series called Good News for Believers, I was going to take you to half a dozen passages which talk about rewards. But I discovered in preparing for this that I could not limit it to only five or six passages. There are dozens I wanted to take you to. That would take dozens of weeks, which we do not have time for.

So I decided to just give you a little introduction to rewards, and then leave it at that. As we work our way through Luke on Sunday mornings, and as we begin a new study on Sunday nights, we will encounter passage after passage that deals with rewards. The introduction tonight will help you notice those passages and take note of how prominent this theme is throughout Scripture.

In this study, all I want to do is answer five questions.

1. Who can receive reward?

2. How can they receive reward?

3. What are the rewards?

4. If they are worked for, how does this fit with grace? Doesn't this make us selfish, or greedy?

5. What will we do with the rewards?

If you want to do more study on your own after tonight, let me recommend a few resources. My top recommendation is a giant book called The Reign of the Servant Kings, by Joseph Dillow. It's a big book, and nearly comprehensive. But it is too much of a book for most people. So there are other, smaller books I also recommend. Two of the best are The Road to Reward by Robert Wilkin and Grace in Eclipse by Zane Hodges.

Then, if you really want to jump into this study, you can also read Your Eternal Reward by Erwin Lutzer, Eternal Security by Charles Stanley, A Life God Rewards by Bruce Wilkinson, The Law of Rewards by Randy Alcorn, and The Believer's Payday by Paul Benware. If you're on the internet, the best website is

The first question most have about rewards is who they are for.

1. Who can receive reward?

The Bible is very clear that reward is only for Christians. 2 Corinthians 5:10 is one passage that reveals this. Unbelievers do not and cannot receive reward. They must first receive Jesus Christ, and this by believing in Him for eternal life. Eternal life is given by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Eternal reward, however, is received by faithfulness to God and His Word. This brings us to the second question.

2. How can we receive reward?

Reward is given for many things.  Here is a partial list.

Good works (cf. also Matt. 10:42; Matt. 25:34-40; Luke 6:35; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:7-8; Jas. 2:21-24; Rev. 22:12)

Acknowledging Christ before others (Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8-9)

Leaving families and livelihoods to follow Christ (Matt. 19:27-29; Mark 10:21)

Love for others (Luke 6:35; John 15:14)

Working hard for Christ (1 Cor. 3:8-15)

Self control and discipline (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:8-9)

Endurance (2 Tim. 2:12)

Love for Christ (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Faith and patience (Heb. 6:12)

Confidence (Heb. 10:35)

Believers seeking Christ (Heb. 11:6)

For reproach and suffering (Luke 6:22-23, Heb. 11:24-26; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10)

Overcoming (Rev. 2:7; Rev. 2:11; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:25-29; Rev. 3:5-6; Rev. 3:11-12; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 21:7)

There are so many ways to receive reward, it is certain that all Christians will receive some reward at the judgment seat of Christ. God, out of His riches, will bless abundantly all those who are his. He even gives us some hints at what exactly some of these rewards will be.

3. What are the rewards?

Dr. T. Kem Oberholtzer provide me with a partial listing of rewards in the New Testament. Let me pass that on to you.

First, he lists general characteristics of the rewards

A. General Characteristics of Rewards

1. Eternal (Heb. 12:26-28; 10:34)

2. Great (Heb. 10:35)

3. Not worthy to be compared (Rom. 8:18)

4. Better Resurrection (Heb. 11:35b)

5. Shared Experiences with Christ (Rom. 8:17)

B. Positive Results: Rewards/Wages/Prize/Rule

1. Matt. 5-7, 5:12, 5:46, 6:1, 6:2, 6:5, 6:16 - Disciple's Reward

2. Matt. 10:41-42 - Prophet's reward

3. Matt. 19:27-30 - Left all, apostles rule

4. Luke 19:27 - minas

5. Rom. 2:5-10 - Day of wrath and rewards

6. Rom. 14:10 - Bema/Judgment Seat

7. 1 Cor. 3:10-15 - gold, silver, precious stones

8. 1 Cor. 9:27 - Prize

9. 1 Cor 5:10 - Bema

10. Php. 3:7-14 - Reward = Out resurrection

11. Col. 3:23-24 - Reward = inheritance

12. 2 Tim. 2:11-12 - Reigning with Christ

13. Heb. 10:35-36 - Holding confidence to receive reward

14. Heb. 11:6 - Rewarder of those seeking Him

15. 2 John 8 - Full reward

C. Negative Results - Shame/Loss of Reward/Forfeit

1. Matt. 25:14-30 - Unfaithful

2. 1 Cor. 3:10-15 - wood, hay, stubble

3. 1 John 2:28 - shame

D. Glorification

1. Luke 19 - 5 or 10 cities with minas

2. Rom. 8:17 - Joint heirs if we suffer

3. 2 Tim. 2:11-12 - Co-reign for believers

4. 2 Pet. 1:3-11 - Diligence results in abundant entrance into kingdom

5. Heb. 1:9 - Metachoi (companions)

6. Heb. 3:14 - Holding Fast

7. Rev. 2-3 - Overcomers

8. Rev. 2:27 - Rule over nations

9. Rev. 19:7-9 - Marriage of the Lamb, "Righteousness"

10. Rev. 19:14 - Armies in fine linen

11. Rev. 21:6-7 - without cost, overcoming/inheritance

12. Rev. 22:12 - come quickly with reward

13. Rev. 22:1-5 Illumination - reflected glory

14. Gen. 15 - to Abraham. Reward great. Told to look at stars.

15. Dan. 12:2-3 - shine like bright lights

16. 1 Cor. 15:40-41 - Degrees of glory, sun, moon, starts

17. Rev. 22:1-5 - Illumination

E. Some Specific Rewards

1. Tree of Life (Rev. 2:7; 22:2)

2. Crown of Life (Rev. 2:10; Jas. 1:12; Matt. 5:10-12; Heb. 10:32-35)

3. Hidden Manna (Rev. 2:17; Heb. 9:1-7; Ex. 16:32-34)

4. White Stone and New Name (Rev. 2:17)

5. Authority over nations (Rev. 2:26; Luke 19:12-19; Heb. 1:9; 3:1; 6:4; 12:8)

6. Morning Star (Rev. 2:28; 22:16; 2 Pet. 1:19)

7. White Garments (Rev. 3:4-5; 19:8, 14)

8. Name Confessed before the Father and Angels (Rev. 3:5; Matt. 10:32-33; John 12:42-43)

9. Pillar in the Temple of God (Rev. 3:12; Rev. 21:22)

10. The Name of God, the City of God and Christ's New Name written upon them (Rev. 3:12)

11. Privilege to sit in Christ's Throne with Him (Rev. 3:21)

12. Privilege of casting our crowns at His feet (Rev. 4:10-11)

13. Prophet's Reward (Matt. 10:41)

14. Righteous Man's Reward (Matt. 10:41)

15. Sitting on Twelve Thrones - Apostle's Reward (Matt. 19:28)

16. Sitting at Christ's right or left (Matt. 20:21-23)

17. The Lord's "Well Done" (Matt. 25:21, 23; 1 Cor. 4:3-5)

18. People in Heaven (Luke 16:9-11; John 4:35-36)

19. Jesus standing to Greet (Acts 7:56)

20. Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:19-20)

21. Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8)

22. Praise, Glory and Honor (1 Pet. 1:6-7)

23. Crown of Glory (1 Pet. 5:1-4)

24. Preserving the Life (Jas. 1:21)

25. Reward of Inheritance (Col. 3:23-24; Gal. 5:19-21).

As he indicates in his outline, this is not a complete list, but is partial. There truly are great rewards and responsibilities and privileges waiting for those who faithfully love, serve and honor God.  The problem, however, is that many people don't like to think of these reward, because it seems selfish to work for them. It seems to them that talking or thinking about rewards feeds on our greed. This is the fourth question.

4. If they are worked for, how does this fit with grace? Doesn't this make us selfish, or greedy?

Really, the question is, is it right to work for reward?

It is true that there are other motivators for serving God. We should serve him simply because we are his servants, and that is what servants do (Luke 17:9-10). We should serve Him simply out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us. We can also serve Him simply because it helps us avoid the negative consequences of sin in our life. After all, God gave us His law to protect us from sin and help us live a better life.

These are all reasons to obey God that have nothing to do with reward. But the fact of the matter is that the Bible unashamedly holds out the promise of rewards for obeying God. And not only does the Bible blatantly offer them, the Bible clearly commands us to work for them!  Matthew 6:19-20, for example, commands us to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven. Numerous other passages tell us the same thing. God wants us to work hard so that we can receive great reward in heaven. Biblically, it is not selfish or greedy to work for rewards.

But think about it another way. All of us work at jobs. We get up Monday morning and go to work. At the end of the week, or every two weeks, we get a paycheck. We get paid the wages we have earned.

You would think it might strange if you work hard for a week or two, and when payday comes, your boss hands you a check and said, "Here's your gift. Aren't I kind to give it to you?"

You would say, "Yes, you are kind to give it me, but it's not a gift. It what I earned. This is my paycheck. This is what I worked for."  The Bible very clearly presents rewards in this light. Rewards are wages for a job well done. They are payment for doing what God wants us to do (John 4:36; Rom. 4:4).

Furthermore, is it ever selfish to want more of the things that God wants for you? I want to be more like Christ. Is that selfish? No. I want to know as much of the Bible as I can. Is that greedy? No. I want to be a better teacher, a better pastor, a better father, a better husband. Is that self centered? No. I want to have greater intimacy with God and a greater sense of the Holy Spirit at work in and through me. Is this covetous? No.

All of these things God wants for me, and so I want them for me as well. It is not selfish or greedy to want for myself what God wants me to have. Great reward is what God wants to give you, and so it is not selfish to want that for yourself either.  Part of the reason it is Godly to want rewards for ourselves is because of what they will enable us to do for eternity. This is the final question.

5. What will we do with the rewards?

One of the things we will do is use our riches and rewards to worship Him. Revelation 4:10 tells us that the twenty-four elders will cast their crowns before His throne. Some believe that the elders represent the church. Whether this is true or not doesn't matter. There are rewards and crowns we can earn also, and we will have opportunity to lay them at his feet.

The greater reward you receive, the greater opportunity you will have to glorify God and serve Him for eternity. Just as greater blessings in this life come with greater responsibility to use those blessing for God, greater reward in heaven comes with greater responsibility to serve Him for eternity.

We will use these riches to rule with Christ during the Millennium, and in the eternal Kingdom. We know from the end of the book of Revelation that there will be a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth. I believe that Jesus Christ will give us parts of that creation to rule and have dominion over. We will be his ambassadors and co-regents to various parts of the new universe.

This was, after all, our original purpose on planet earth. We were to rule and reign here, and have dominion here. But sin messed all of that up. When the present heavens and earth pass away, and the new heavens and new earth are created, and there will be no more sin, or Satan, then we will regain the position and authority that God has always wanted us to have.  And as such, we will bring him glory and praise by doing what we were created for.

Rewards. They are how we motivate one another, and how employers motivate employees. James Dobson even recommends parents use them to motivate children. They are how God motivates us.

And yes, even these are out of His grace, for He did not have to give us anything at all, much less the promise of great reward. But ultimately, our reward will bring greater praise, honor and glory to Himself. Do you want to praise and glorify God for eternity? Then get to work, and get some reward.


Author's Note: At the time of this study, I provided the following two handouts: