“Is it proper to be motivated by rewards? Isn’t love a higher form of motivation?” We can answer this by examining how Jesus responded to Peter’s question.
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:27-28).
Jesus did not rebuke Peter for asking what he’ll get for leaving all. Jesus’ positive answer encourages us to reach for the rewards He offers. If God wants to grant us rewards to motivate us to greater endeavor, then who are we to tell Him it is wrong to do so? Whatever God chooses to offer us will be a great blessing indeed.
Salvation comes to us as a gift through no merit of ours. But rewards are not given as gifts. They are for those who are considered worthy to receive them, just as the athlete whose efforts earned the gold medal, and as Peter who had sacrificed all to follow Christ. Christ recognized Peter’s extra effort, and it will not go unrewarded.
Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor.9:27). He wanted a full payment for his labor. He recognized that his bodily cravings could invalidate him for a reward. We’ve all heard of men of God who fell because of shameful sin. Paul understood that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, not of those who fervently seek carnal pursuits, placing their own wills over the will of God. When the rewards are given to the believers, we will see that it makes a difference in how we live.
God will grant crowns to those who meet the conditions. He will reward thrones to those who have left all to follow Him. Just about any boy may join the Boy Scouts. But to rise through the ranks in honor, one must earn the badges through effort. Not all will want such honor; they will be happy to make friends and participate in the many enjoyable activities. Many Christians will be content to be saved from the lake of fire, enjoy the many earthly blessings from the Father of lights, but will miss out on the supreme honor accorded those who gave their lives in service.