Should We Use Rewards as Motivation?

Reward-based motivational methods have been around for a long time. Whether patches and bars for children who learn verses or plaques and certificates for hard-working adults, we line people up and applaud them. But some Christians are uncomfortable with these traditions. Shouldn’t we serve the Lord out of love? Doesn’t the applause of men rob God of His glory and encourage pride?

Though the reward method of motivation is not without risks, it is not a method we should reject. Here’s why.

1. God uses reward motivation frequently.

Throughout the pages of Scripture, God appeals to our desire to enjoy reward and to avoid suffering. It’s often clear that He is doing so in order to motivate us to do what He desires. Jesus used this type of motivation in the Sermon on the Mount. Urging a joyful response to persecution, He said, “Great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (NKJV, Matt. 5:12). Later, He warned His hearers not to serve merely in order to be seen because the result would be “no reward” from the Father (Matt. 6:1). But of humble good works He said, “your Father…will Himself reward you openly” (6:4). Jesus clearly appealed to the desire for reward as a reason to do right.

The epistles use reward motivation as well. They anticipate the crowns God will give to His faithful, obedient children (James 1:12, 1 Cor. 9:25, 1 Pet. 5:4). They also speak of reward at the judgment, where we will receive what is consistent with our works “whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). If our work endures, we “will receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:13).

If God appeals to our desire for reward so frequently and frankly, we should hesitate to reject reward motivation in ministry.

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 8

Read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

The Public Testimony of Believers

What concerns our loving Lord is not only His daily relationship with each of His children, but also the long-term impact and influence of our Christian lives and ministries upon others. This is especially true with regard to Christian leaders. For example, if the pastor of a church commits a serious public sin, his position of leadership in the church is (with possible rare exceptions) finished, even though he might genuinely confess his sin to God.

As Paul wrote to Timothy, “A bishop then must be blameless…he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (NKJV, 1 Tim. 3:2,7). And, “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 7

sunsetRead parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Forgiveness Now—But Fire Later?

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, it will be unworthy works that will be burned—not the believers! Thank God! Even though a believer’s “work is burned…he himself will be saved” (NKJV, 1 Cor. 3:15). But does not that reduce the bema confrontation to total insignificance? No, for “he will suffer loss…as through fire.”

Does this mean, then, that some believers will be in a state of depression forever? No, for “it would not be heaven if we were to spend eternity in sadness because of what we did not do. Undoubtedly there will be regret, but our overwhelming emotion will be the realization of the wonderful grace of God that saved us and brought us to heaven. There will be rejoicing in heaven instead of tears” (C. Swindoll and R. Zook, Understanding Christian Theology. Thomas Nelson, 2003. p. 1279).

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Parts 5 & 6

sunsetPeviously, in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Purgatory and loss by fire

What kind of a superstructure has a Christian built upon his or her life in Christ? This is the supreme issue to be dealt with at the bema—for believers in ancient Corinth, and for all of us today.

This is the heavy part of God’s final word on this subject:

Now if anyone builds on this foundation (i.e., the finished work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (NKJV, 1 Cor. 3:12-15)

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will evaluate us some day, not only on the basis of our motives, but also on the basis of how much we knew of His will and Word, because “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48, NKJV). Therefore, “that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47).

But if we did not know His will, are we not completely free of any consequences? No, for such ignorance is culpable: we should have done everything possible to learn His will for our lives through reading, believing and obeying His Word! Here is an earthly illustration: what would happen to me if I were stopped by a traffic officer for driving 90 miles per hour though the city on my way to a conference? Would I be completely excused if I told him that I didn’t know what the speed limit was? His answer would be: “Sir, you are driving a dangerous machine! You should have found out what the speed limit is here. Explain your case to the judge!”

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