Does God reward us for being obedient to His Word?

Yes, God does reward those who are obedient and persevere in following Him. However, it must first be said that this is separate from the gift of salvation. No one can earn access to God or be rewarded with God's love for obeying. When we accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, we experience all the blessings of being His adopted child, including eternal life (John 1:12; 3:16–18; Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:3–14; 2:1–10).

The Old Testament is full of accounts of God giving a reward (Genesis 15:1; Ruth 2:12; 1 Samuel 24:19). Very specifically, God does tell us that He rewards those who do what He asks and are faithful to Him: "The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the LORD gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the LORD's anointed" (1 Samuel 26:23). Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." This is a truth that we can take joy in, but it should not be the goal and focus of our faith or our walk with God. Being made Christlike is the ultimate outcome of our faith (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:22–24; 5:1–2; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

Some of these Old Testament accounts were fulfillments of specific promises from God. We must be careful to not assume or demand rewards from God for our faith and obedience. Our relationship with God is not a quid pro quo reward system. It is freedom from being enslaved to sin, it is new life in Christ, it is fellowship with the maker of our souls, it is hope for eternity.

We must also recognize that what we think of as a "reward" may not always be what God has in mind. For example, we might think of a "reward" as an easy life or a material gift. But God told us that we would have hardship in this world, many times even on account of following Him (John 16:33; 1 Timothy 3:12). But He will be with us and He uses those trials to sanctify us (1 Peter 1:6–9; James 1:2–4). Paul counseled, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6–7; cf. 1 Peter 5:7). Sometimes the "reward" attached to obeying God is experiencing His peace. Sometimes the "reward" is having closer fellowship with God by more deeply understanding Jesus' suffering and His love.

Even in the Old Testament, when God's covenant with the nation of Israel was more often expressed in material reward for obedience and material cursing for disobedience (Leviticus 26), faithful individuals did not always experience an easy life (see Hebrews 11 and the book of Job, for example). Recognize that many times the "reward" is in heaven, not on this earth.

In the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew has the most uses of the word reward. Here is an example: "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward" (Matthew 10:40–41).

Other New Testament verses tell us that perseverance under persecution will be rewarded. James 1:12 is a good example of a New Testament mention of rewards: "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." Those who are persecuted are promised rewards in particular. First Peter 5:4 is also a good example: "And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."

We also know that God's design for us is best and therefore living His ways usually leads to better results. This could be considered a "reward" in some ways. The book of Proverbs is filled with practical wisdom that, when followed, more often than not results in such "reward." Galatians 6:7–8 says, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." Jesus equated obedience to Him with fullness of joy (John 15:10–11). Often the natural consequences of obedience are their own reward. And even when obedience to God results in hardship for us (2 Timothy 3:12), we still have the reward of joy and peace in Christ (John 16:33; Philippians 4:4–8).

The idea of being rewarded can bring some people joy and others uncertainty. How we feel about this biblical idea is often wrapped up in how we feel our current relationship is with God. It's important to understand that rewards are for God to give as He sees fit, and it will be glorious in heaven to see those we know and love be rewarded. But our greatest gift is a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the God of the universe who wants to meet with you every single day and for eternity. Let this be our focus and our ultimate joy.


Related Truth:

Why does obedience to God matter?

How can I seek first the kingdom of God?

Is salvation about more than just the afterlife?

What is the significance of the command to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

How can I come to really know God?


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