Rewarded according to our works? (part 2)

Rewarded according to our works is what drives religion, the idea being that our own human effort gains us a reward in the afterlife. And the more effort expended, the bigger the reward we’ve got coming to us. Or the more one denies oneself now, the more pleasure awaits us later. Or the stricter we are on ourselves in this life, the higher up the ladder we’ll be in the next life. Or the more good works and good deeds we do during this lifetime, the less we have to fear on Judgment Day.

But isn’t that true for Christians too, Romans 2:6-8? “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

It sounds like Paul is putting Christians in exactly the same boat as people in other religions, that our eternal life, good or bad, depends on how we behave. But that’s worrying, because who among us persistently does good and is never self-seeking? If it’s true, though, that our eternal life depends on a steady stream of good actions and good attitudes, then we have no choice, we’d better do what Paul says or face God’s wrath and anger.

That’s downright scary, though, because what if I do really well on Monday, doing lots of good deeds for people and not thinking one selfish thought, but on Tuesday I have an awful day, feeling sorry for myself and being snippy with people? And which day does Jesus come back? On Tuesday! So, what happens to my reward now? Is it based on Monday’s behaviour, or Tuesday’s, or an average of the two?

Imagine the bookkeeping God has to do, keeping tabs on everybody’s attitudes and actions all the time to figure out exactly what reward we all deserve in the end. And what does it do for us, too, waking up every day thinking God will be watching our every action to determine our firnal reward? It makes us very self-centred, the very opposite attitude to what gets us our reward in the first place! If it is indeed true, though, that we are rewarded with eternal life for persistently doing good and being unselfish, then it makes all our striving and self-denial worth it, but is that what Paul was getting at in these verses? If it is, then he makes life even more difficult for us in the next chapter….(continued in Part 3)

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