By Femi Aribisala
God is the rewarder of men. Every charitable deed gets a reward. The question is what kind of reward? Is it the earthly kind or is it the heavenly kind?
The great reward is the heavenly reward. Jesus says: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:23).
But the earthly reward is blasé. Jesus never tells any man to leap for joy because of
it. It is déjà vu. Eye has seen it, ear has heard it, it has come into the minds of men.
But the heavenly reward is extraordinary. It is exceptional. The bible describes it as “unspeakable” Some translations call it indescribable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46).
That speaks of the allure of the heavenly. Nevertheless, many insist on the earthly reward. “Men of the world” want their portion in this life. (Psalm 17:14). But David only wants the heavenly. He says to God: “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” (Psalm 17:15).
Which reward do we desire? Have we found anything worth forsaking the world for? Once we receive a reward for anything in this world, we cannot get another reward for it in heaven. To get the heavenly, we must forsake the earthly. God does not reward those who have received earthly payment.
Jesus emphasises this in teaching about giving to the poor, who cannot repay. He says: “When you put on a dinner, don’t invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbours! For they will return the invitation. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who can’t repay you.” (Luke 14:12-14).
In the same vein, He warns against ostentatious giving: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2).
The question is whether the Christian of today has found any treasure worth forsaking the world for. If we have not, then we have yet to inherit the kingdom of God. If all we want is here and now, then we can have no regard for the consolations of Christ. Paul says: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
That was the problem of the rich young ruler. Jesus made him a proposition: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21). But he would not sacrifice the world for treasure in heaven and, therefore, he forfeited the grace of God. He had the “good” life on earth; he was not interested in the abundant life in heaven.
[ALSO READ] Unending quest for medical tourism
People who have received the abundant life of the kingdom of God (the one provided by Jesus) have no difficulty in giving away the trappings of the counterfeit good life here on earth. They understand the kingdom dynamic that Jesus presents that:
“Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25).
Giving and receiving
One of the cardinal principles of the kingdom of God is the principle of giving and receiving. (Philippians 4:15). This requires the believer to be liberal with his resources, thereby lodging spiritual credits in a heavenly account.
However, this process of heavenly accumulation is only appealing to the spiritually minded and not to the carnally minded. For a church socialised into carnality and encouraged to seek prosperity in the world, keeping treasures in heaven is pie in the sky.
Jesus warns emphatically: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
How do you know a man who has true riches? In the world, we know how rich a man is by what he has. But in the kingdom, we know how rich a man is not by what he has, but by how he gives. A man abounding in the abundant life is always inclined to give to others.
Paul exemplifies this by the generosity of the Macedonian church: “I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.” (2 Corinthians 8:3).
Moreover, someone rich in naira has only naira to give. But the man who is rich in Christ has much more than naira to give. He does not just have abundant money; he has abundant life. He is abundant in all things that pertain to life and godliness. He abounds in every good thing; in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in love for others. (2 Corinthians 8:7). He is also abundant in grace.
When we are not abundant in the grace of God, we cannot give. We are not sure we will be able to replenish whatever we give. But the man who is in Christ is enriched by him in everything. All his springs are in Christ. (Psalm 87:7). Therefore, he knows he will never lack any good thing. (Psalm 21:1).
Indeed, the reason why God gives us the abundant life is so that we can give it away and come back for more. God gives us more life than we require; he gives us more than we need. He gives it to us so that we can use it to minister to the saints.
In this regard, Jesus is our outstanding example: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Therefore, the reason for the abundant life is our liberality: “Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.” (2 Corinthians 9:11).