Friday, December 4, 2009

faith and works

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Matthew 16:27

If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:14-15

Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.
2 John 1:8
If we have been saved by grace, not by works, how can there exist a concept of heavenly rewards according to earthly deeds? Why does scripture repeatedly refer to a rewards system based on what we do on earth? What is so reprehensible about barely escaping through the flames if the ultimate reward in heaven is God Himself? I thought that the worker who is hired at the end of the day is paid the same as the one hired in the morning.

My only concrete understanding of heaven is eternal fellowship with God, where worship exists without corruption nor fatigue nor apathy. And everyone in heaven participates, whether they entered by an inch or a mile. So why a rewards system? Will we stare jealously at our neighbor's house which is gilded with gold from our own which is gilded with silver? I cannot believe that heaven will contain such human fallacies. I believe our attentions will be so captivated by Glory that we will hardly notice ourselves, much less our surroundings.

Faith without deeds is dead, that much is understandable. Could these rewards be a motivator for the less initiated? The idea of a heavenly reward can and does drive many people to labor for God, even if it doesn't make any difference. But I can't believe that God would be so...manipulative. It's not consistent with His personality to create vestigial motivators. If good works do not come out of a desire for God, they are but dirty rags.

How can such a paradox, if not an outright contradiction, exist within scripture which is supposed to be infallible? The only way I can rationalize it is by arguing that life is paradoxical. We are walking contradictions. Shine a red light on a yellow scrap of paper and it will look red. Shine a green light on that same scrap and it will look green. (I think.) Only white light reveals true colors. It is important not to shelve our doubts, but to wrestle over them. God could have called his people whatever He wanted to, but he chose the name "Israel," which means "wrestles with God."

Please share your thoughts. Maybe our different colored flashlights will combine into something resembling white light.

1 comment:

  1. why do we do good things? haha... well, i think there is a rewards system (in a way). i mean, it's not bad, many things are referred to in a "rewards" way. ex. running in a way as to receive the prize. is the prize what we're really running for? i don't think so. it's HIM. the one that captured our hearts in the first place...

    seeking rewards only becomes sin when we desire the gift more than the Giver...

    like discipleship? we don't NEED it to enter heaven (faith alone is enough). it's hard, why work? because we're richly blessed by both the difficulty and the reward (frosting on the cake?).

    oh and one more reason for doing good things (a reminder i consistently need for myself)...

    14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. ... 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (matt 5:14,16)