In Matthew 6 Jesus seems to indicate that different rewards will result depending on the way disciples live now; specifically how they give, pray and fast.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
How do we reconcile Jesus’ words with the gospel of grace alone, not works? Do our actions now have an impact on our rewards now and in heaven? Does Jesus propose a heavenly meritocracy?
Matthew 6 continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and reveals Jesus specific instructions on how to give to the needy, pray to our heavenly Father, and fast in a way different to the hypocrites. For each of these three areas of the disciples’ life Jesus addresses our attitude and motivations and gives:
- A warning not to do the act of righteousness in order to get praise from others
- A guarantee that those who ignore this warning will get what they seek now but no future rewards
- Instructions on how to do these things secretly
- An assurance that the Father sees what is done in secret and will reward openly.
Whilst these acts of righteousness do not impact upon an individual’s salvation they are matters of obedience and need to be carefully considered in the light of the rewards now and for eternity.