The principle of reward runs right through the Scriptures. In Genesis 15, the Lord describes Himself to Abraham as his shield and his exceeding great reward. In Revelation 22:12 the Lord says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” – a lovely promise from a gracious Lord. To His own He couples with the assurance of His coming, the promise of reward. Against such a background Simon Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27 might at first appear to be quite legitimate: “Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Peter had heard the Lord’s conversation with the rich young man when treasure in heaven had been mentioned, a sequel to selling what he had, giving to the poor and following the Lord.
In His immediate reply to the question the Lord was very gracious. Never had it occurred to Peter that when he left all to follow Christ it would lead to a hundredfold reward, the inheritance of eternal life, and an association with the Son of Man in His glory; to sit on a throne and arbitrate in the affairs of Israel. We too, by heeding the gospel call to come to Christ and to follow Him, have entered into a sphere of untold blessing and glory. When we came as poor sinners to the Saviour we were little aware that in that moment of receiving Christ we were raised and seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ. Divine grace brought us to a realm of untold richness and glory, being placed in Christ to see His glory and to be eternally associated with Him.
However, apart from His first gracious response, the Lord discerned that Peter was entering a life of discipleship and service from wrong motives. The question, “What then will we have?” indicated a state of mind more concerned with receiving than giving, surely a wrong attitude with which to begin a life of service for the Lord, hence the parable in chapter 20 of the householder who hired labourers.
The Lord tells us of two distinct classes of labourers, the first who entered into an agreement with the householder and served for an agreed wage – a penny a day. The second class, embracing all who were appointed at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth and
the eleventh hours, served on the householder’s promise that he would give to them whatsoever was right. These men were content to serve, trusting the householder’s word that they would receive at the end of the day that which was right; the interpretation of this was left to the householder.
Peter’s question, “What then will we have?” placed him in the category of those labourers who served with their terms and conditions of service spelled out: It showed that Peter was an immature believer, not understanding as yet the ways of his Lord or his own position. In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter describes himself as a servant (bondservant – a slave) of Jesus Christ. Peter has advanced here in his knowledge of the Lord and His ways and in his estimation of himself before the Lord. A slave has no entitlements; he is not in a position to ask for privileges or to make demands. He is dependent on the goodwill of his master for the bare necessities of life. All that a slave has is at the disposal of his master: his time, his strength and energy, every part of him is to be spent in the service of the One who bought him, with no expectation of reward in return.
“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13). We have no other guidance in this matter, we accept His Word, and resting on it look forward to better days and a better place to come. In the matter of reward we again rest on His word and promise. We have no other guidance and no claims on the Lord; we accept and rest on His word – “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12), and again, “If the work that anyone has built … survives, he will receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:14).
A consideration of such scriptures leads us to realize that there is, of course, a solemn side to this principle of reward, that forms a background to, and will exert a strong influence on, our final reward. This is the matter of motive, the great well-spring from which our service flows. The Lord gives us guidance in Matthew 6. Those who serve with men in view have no reward from their Father in heaven; the reward is here and now in the plaudits of men – “They have received their reward”.
As we seek to serve the Lord according to the gift given to us and the gracious help of the Holy Spirit, we should have before us 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “your work of faith and
labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In faith, love and hope we have a foundation on which to build our lives of service for the Lord.
“Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). We serve, having before us Ecclesiastes 11:6: “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
We love because He first loved us. As we consider love, Calvary looms in our view and what the Saviour did for us. Our service flows out from hearts that seek to return that love again. Calvary moulds our attitudes and our service.
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7,8).
We have come across these expressions elsewhere. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith and hope are great but greater love will lead to a greater giving in service and to a greatness of reward, as was the experience of the woman in Luke 7:36-50. If faith, love, hope coupled with patience, give rise to our service it may be that when the day of review comes we shall hear from our Master the lovely words of appreciation and reward, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matt.25:21). May we hear and respond to the word, “‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you’” (Matt.20:4).