Written By Lead Pastor, Chris Hankins
Our church family has been studying a generosity principle taught by Jesus that we call the Treasure Principle. Jesus said this in the sermon on the mount found in Matthew 6:19-21.
“19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus teaches that it is foolish to store up for yourselves treasures in this life, because it will rot, rust, or be robbed by either someone or by death itself. However, he teaches here and in several other places that while we cannot take treasure with us, we can send it on ahead. He in fact commands us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
However, should these heavenly treasures or eternal rewards be a motivating factor for followers of Jesus?
Eternal rewards are a vital but sometimes controversial subject among Christians. Some Christians have an idea that rewards are in conflict with grace. Grace is something that is given that is not deserved and rewards are by their very nature something that is given for the work done. The conflict is easy to see.
However, I would argue that it is a needless conflict because Jesus makes a clear delineation between the things that are given by grace and the things that are given as reward.
Jesus clearly states that our eternal salvation and eternity in heaven are given by grace because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9 paints this beautifully “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
However, the passage does not end there. We see from the next verse in vs 10 that while we are not saved by works, we are saved to work.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10
Jesus promises in numerous places that he will eternally reward his followers for their work, sacrifice and generosity in proportion to their faithfulness (Matthew 16:27, Matthew 25:14-30,
These eternal rewards are different from our salvation which is by grace and undeserved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is by Grace. However, rewards are given for faithful work done for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:21, Matthew 19:27-30Matthew 25:14-21).
You may be wondering… “Isn’t Jesus supposed to be our ultimate treasure?”
Randy Alcorn in his book, The Treasure Principle puts it this way:
“Of course, Christ Himself is our ultimate treasure. All else pales in comparison to Him (Philippians 3:7–11). A person, Jesus, is our first treasure. A place, Heaven, is our second treasure. Possessions, eternal rewards, are our third treasure.” – Randy Alcorn
Let’s look at one of the teachings of Jesus on this topic in Matthew 19:27-29.
“Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us? ”When the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” – Matthew 19:27-29.
We see 3 exciting promises for the followers of Jesus in this passage:
- Presence of Jesus – The presence of Jesus is evident in the passage because
the disciples are physically around the throne of Jesus as he sits on it. Revelation
21:3-4 makes this promise explicit (“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the
people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with
them and be their God.)
- Eternal Life – Eternal life is clearly and explicitly promised as part of the inheritance followers of Jesus will inherit. Not only will we be in the presence of God, but we will be with him forever and ever in a place where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4)
- Eternal Rewards – Jesus promises that whatever people give up for the Kingdom of God in this life will be returned 100 fold to them in eternity. We also see that these rewards given by King Jesus are in proportion to the sacrifice of each follower of Jesus. We also see in other places like Matthew 6:20 and Luke 12:33 that these rewards will be eternal, imperishable and inexhaustible.
Why would Jesus make these promises? In you examine the greater context of Matthew 19, Jesus made these promises explicit to comfort and motivate his disciples who were directly asking if their sacrifice to serve Jesus would be rewarded. The clear answer here and in numerous other places in the scripture is an empathetic YES! The sacrifices followers of Jesus make for the Kingdom of God in this life will be richly rewarded in the next! Jesus gives these 3 promises of his presence, eternal life and eternal rewards as motivators for you and me to seek first His Kingdom instead of the things of this world (Matthew 6:33).
The reality is that I would be a fool to store up things for myself and work to build my own earthly Kingdom when in just a few decades (if I am lucky) it will all be wiped away. Rather, I will follow the advice of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and readily sacrifice anything his Holy Spirit leads me to and work to “Provide purses for (myself) that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will never fail (Luke 12:33). I will store up my treasure in Heaven where Christ is seated so that my heart and my gaze will be where my treasure is…in eternity with Jesus!
Should we be motivated by Eternal Rewards? Is it wrong for rewards to be a motivation for followers of Jesus?
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:1-2 CSB
Not only should we be motivated by eternal rewards of things in heaven, but we are actually commanded to be. We are told to seek them and set our minds on them. Why? Because as Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21 where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus wants our hearts to be tethered to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God.
I love this example given by Randy Alcorn about how a father intentionally and joyfully uses rewards to motivate his children.
“When our daughters lived in our home as teenagers, suppose I’d told one of them, “If you do a full day of yard work Saturday, I’ll pay you fifty dollars and take you out to a nice dinner.” Would it be wrong for her to want to earn the fifty dollars? Would it be wrong for her to look forward to going out to a nice dinner with her dad? Of course it wouldn’t be wrong! I’m her father, I made the offer, and I want her to want those things! Of course, it would be inappropriate if my daughter refused to work unless I offered her rewards. But because rewarding her was my idea, not hers, she would have every right to be motivated by the rewards I offered her. In fact, my own joy would be lessened if she didn’t want the rewards I offered her—especially the reward of enjoying that special dinner together. It wasn’t our idea that God would reward us. It was his idea! Satan didn’t make up the idea of incentives. Our sin nature didn’t make it up. A corrupt world didn’t make it up. God made it up… Suppose my daughter did the yard work joylessly and then said, “Dad, I just did my duty. I refuse the money, and I don’t want to go to dinner with you.” How would that make me feel? We flatter ourselves—and insult God—when we say, “I don’t care about reward.” – Randy Alcorn
Father, Thank you for making this reality clear! I am no fool to give what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose, would you bind my heart in eternity with Christ as I store up my treasure with Him there? Jesus Name, Amen.
Below is a list of NT passages speaking to eternal rewards. I encourage you to spend some time this week reading through these passages in your devotional time with the Lord. I pray the Holy Spirit will use them to set your mind on things above!
- Matthew 6:19-21 – Treasure and Motivation
- Matthew 10:39-42 – Kindness Rewarded
- Matthew 16:27 – Rewarded According to Deeds
- Matthew 19:21 – Treasure in Heaven
- Matthew 19:27-30 – 100 Times as Much
- Matthew 24:46-47 – Faithful Servants Rewarded
- Matthew 25:14-30 – Faithfulness Based Rewards
- Luke 12:16-21 – Living for the Temporary
- Luke 12:33 – Purses that Won’t Wear Out
- Luke 14:13-14 – Forfeit Now to Gain Later
- Luke 16:9 – Reward of Eternal Welcomes
- Luke 16:1-12 – Reward of Heavenly Riches & Property
- Romans 2:6 – God Repays According to Deeds
- 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 – Rewards Different from Salvation
- 1 Corinthians 4:5 – Reward of Praise
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 – Running for the Prize
- Ephesians 6:7-8 – Rewarded for Good Done
- Philippians 4:17-19 – Heavenly Account
- 1 Timothy 6:19 – Lay up Treasure
- 2 Timothy 4:7-8 – Finishing the Race
- Hebrews 11:6 – Earnest Seekers Rewarded
- Hebrews 11:26 – Better Reward
- 2 John 1:8 – Losing Rewards
- 1 Peter 5:1-4 – Elder Rewards