My post in a discussion group.
I've been enjoying the discussion on rewards. It is amazing how the concept has grown over the centuries to the point it is today.
Early this morning at Home Depot (where I work) I was in the door knob aisle - once again - having to straighten it all up since it seems that many people have great difficulty recognizing the difference between styles and finishes and handing, etc. I pulled out some handle-sets that were all pushed into the same space, and I held two of them up so that my fellow employees could see them and said, "Well, these two look about the same, huh?". One of them was bright brass and the other was satin nickel - like a night and day difference. One of the guys shakes his head saying, "Sounds a little sarcastic!". I was glad he didn't miss the obvious point. :)
Now, could you imagine if my statement got written down in the annals of Home Depot happenings? I wonder what some HD historians might make of such a statement if they didn't recognize that I was making fun of an obvious boo-boo of the careless stocking habits of our employees? Some might find a dictionary that specialized in the contemporary uses of certain words to discover if there was some deeper meaning. I think we have studied ourselves into an awful lot of dead-ends over the centuries that we have come to regard as if God actually had something to do with them. Rewards is one such dead-ended doctrine.
For the kingdom of heaven is like a certain landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And having agreed with the workers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace. And said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever may be right I will give you.' So they went. Again going out about the sixth and the ninth hour, he did likewise. And about the eleventh hour, going out he found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you shall receive.' So when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they also received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they began grumbling against the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am not wronging you. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go. But I want to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' Thus the last shall be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 20:1-16
Consider this story Jesus told about the workers who all received the same pay for varying amounts of work performed. The more we take the religious connotations out of this story and simply see it in view of those who were present we would sense both the anger and frustration in those who were paid exactly what was agreed upon and also the incredible thankfulness of those who were given a compensation that defied any logic of fairness. We understand both. But for them, it presented a distinction between law (as they knew well) and grace (which was foreign to them). But in our theological silliness we have created elaborate and detailed explanations of each and every group of workers (or other such things).
I was taught in church that I would have a golden crown with a jewel for every person I led to Christ.
Yeah, me, too. But then that would mean we would all be in each other's hair!! :)
I'm not comfortable with the idea of Christians being given levels of status based on works.
I wonder why that might be!! :) Isn't it crazy how the flesh manages to put its finger back into the pie to take credit for the miraculous works of God within us?
If we would examine most of the occurrences of rewards we might be surprised to find that many of them were jabs at the religious claims of the day, while others spoke of persecution and rejection by man as being the reward. Often both these were used together to unmask the bogus claims of performance-based religion by contrasting the REAL examples of those who spoke in God's name. It is only through fleshly systems of logic that we have established this bogus concept that Christ is in the business of creating levels of status through performance.