A little plaque displayed in a Christian family’s living room read: “Working for the Lord doesn’t pay much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.” There’s a lot of truth in that observation. But how does it pay to serve the Lord? Does God reward us materially so that we will serve Him?
The devil challenged God in the book of Job, when he insinuated the main reason people serve God is because He arranges things so His followers have an easier way of life and never experience pain. Isn’t it odd how the devil uses the absence of evil to speak against God? In Job 1, the devil’s position was the absence of evil proves how desperate God is for followers, to the point He “pays” them by making life really easy. Today, this is turned around: they say the presence of evil in the world proves the non-existence of God.
God hasn’t promised to make the circumstances of life easier for anyone. Those who live for Christ will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12). The Bible teaches we should welcome adversity, when it arrives, as an opportunity to grow spiritually (see James 1:2). However, God provides benefits in the form of spiritual blessings as we make sacrifices for Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
Paul encouraged the Hebrews to live faithfully for Christ, in the same manner they had when it wasn’t financially profitable for them to do so: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:32-34).
The passage says they had compassion on those who had been imprisoned for their faith “and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (v. 34). “This may refer (1) to the losses which the Hebrews sustained in consequence of their becoming Christians; just as it sometimes now happens even in our own day. ‘When a Jew,’ says Ebrard, ‘shows himself determined to become a Christian, he is disinherited by his relatives; his share of the property is withheld from him; his credit and every source of gain, withdrawn; and he falls into a state of complete destitution.’ This same kind of injustice was extensively practiced in primitive times by both Jews and Gentiles. But (2) it is probable that the Apostle refers here more particularly to the heavy losses of property which the Hebrew Christians had incurred in times of persecution.” (Gospel Advocate Comm.).
We can learn about enduring financial losses and making financial sacrifices, by the way they perceived their setbacks as spiritual investments. What we use – or lose – in service to God bring a greater return in three ways:
(1) It appraises higher. Heaven is far more valuable (see Matt. 16:26). Unfortunately, “some know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
(2) It last longer. God’s spiritual rewards are “enduring.” Jesus said no investments in heaven can be lost or destroyed (see Matt. 6:19-21). “He is not foolish who will give up what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.”
(3) It touches deeper. The Lord knows the meaning of real sacrifice, like the woman who anointed him with expensive oil (see Matt. 26:6-13).