But aren’t we to be rewarded in heaven based on how we steward talent on earth? It seems that some have more significance than others.
A great question. This really is an important idea, and it is hard to pack to pull together a short answer, but let me try.
There is a difference between an intrinsic reward and an extrinsic reward, or an intrinsic punishment and an extrinsic punishment. An intrinsic reward or punishment is connected to what you did to get there. An extrinsic punishment or an external one is not related to the activity.
In a judicial system, if for example, you are in a court of law and convicted of stealing, your going to a prison is connected to the fact that you stole. But, if for example, you’ve been smoking for 25 years and then you develop emphysema; that, in a way, is sort of a punishment for that behavior, but there’s a naturalness to it. The sin brings about its own consequences.
Certain behaviors bring about their own consequences that are either rewards for one kind of behavior or punishments for another kind of behavior.
The main paradigm from the Bible about rewards and punishments is this: The rewards are the natural outworking of living in a certain way and punishments are a natural outworking of living in a certain way. And, when you find, in the Bible, Jesus saying, “Go this direction and great will your reward be,” this is what it’s talking about.
The life that you acquire is the reward you get from going down this path. And one kind of path is the one God created us to go, and there is fullness of life, there’s joy, and there’s a tremendous reward there. When we go the path of self‐worship, call our own thing and go our own life, that’s not the way we’re created to live, so we’re living against nature.
We’re beautiful, Drachma coins, but we’re wallowing in pig manure, and that brings about its own consequences, as well. And the trouble is, we, in the west, as I’ve said many times, tend to think of things in a judicial paradigm. So we think of rewards and punishments as extrinsic, that it’s something a judge sentences us with; but, in the Bible, it’s much more organic. It’s much more holistic.
Living in a certain way brings a reward and a punishment, but the rewards and the punishments are connected to how we’re living to get there.