Rewards for Discipleship

September 2, 2012

 Matthew 19:27-30 "Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life" (verse 29).

Often we think we should only follow Jesus because of His inherent worth and that to seek a reward from Him is entirely wrong. Christ's inherent goodness and beauty is, of course, enough to motivate discipleship; however, it is not altogether improper to look for other blessings as well. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says God is pleased when we believe "he rewards those who seek Him."

Today's passage reinforces this understanding of serving Jesus in hopes of a reward. Jesus' earlier promise of treasure in heaven to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:21) probably moves Peter to ask what the disciples will gain from following Christ. The disciple is not rebuked for his question; on the contrary, Jesus says His followers will receive "a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life" (verses 27-30), implicitly affirming that Peter's question is not wholly wrongheaded.

According to Mark's account, the hundredfold reward Jesus promises is not limited to the future; it is also experienced in the present (10:29-31). We will enjoy our blessings fully only in the new heavens and earth, but we err if we expect them in the age to come alone. Still, benefits today will not be without hardship; Mark's record says that good things come with persecutions (verse 30). This cautions us against thinking believers will be the most wealthy and successful of all peoples, according to earthly standards. Yet Christians are better off than unbelievers even when our standard of living seems comparatively less than theirs. John Calvin writes that "God gladdens His people, so that the small portion of good which they enjoy is more highly valued by them, and far sweeter, than if out of Christ they had enjoyed an unlimited abundance of good things."

Therefore Jesus also says that in the age to come, many who are first will be last and vice versa (Matthew 19:30). The exact sense of the proverb in this context is a bit unclear, but James M. Boice helpfully interprets it to mean that "those who have the most here will not necessarily have the most in heaven" (The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 2, p. 411). All who for the Saviour's sake reject power, position, and possessions now, though they suffer much, will find in eternity that their sacrifice was worth the temporary shame of being last today.

Living before the face of God

Any reward that God gives us is by His grace, for He is the one who prepares good works for us and enables us to do them (Ephesians 2:8-10). Because it is all by His grace, we should never arrogantly demand that He bless us, but neither should we never expect a reward in this life. Take time today to think on the blessings of Christian friends, your church family, and other such things in this present age. Make sure to thank the Father for all of these rewards.

For further study: Proverbs 22:4