The Christian and Heavenly Rewards
In small group today, Mr. Huck raised the question of whether a Christian ought to be motivated by rewards from God. It is an interesting question. Standard doctrine tells us that God saves a person not because of his own actions, but for God’s own reasons. For somebody who understands this, salvation as a reward is not a motivation for virtuous behavior. Indeed, doing an action only for fear of Hell or as the price of salvation is not going to save anybody.
Nor is doing it to attain a feeling of salvation; too many Hell-bound sinners act virtuously merely for material ends like that. This does turn into a version of Newcombe’s Paradox though. Suppose God has already decided whether I am saved or lost. I face the decision of whether to embezzle or not. God is very good at prediction, and has already decided that people who choose to embezzle are not ones he wants to save. Thus, if I embezzle, He has predicted that and I am lost. If I don’t embezzle, though, I don’t get the benefits of extra money (and let us assume that there is no downside to embezzlement from guilt or prison).
One point that came up was that parents do not rely on the gratitude of their children; they offer them material rewards too, in the hopes it will train the children to do the right thing by themselves later. Does God do this too?