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Monday, June 11, 2012

Heavenly Reward from a Child's Perspective

When my sister and I were children, we used to correct each other with a "Christian" hand signal we had developed, which baffled adults around us. It was a prying motion, usually coupled with a deep frown.  Do you fail to see the Christian connection?  I don't blame you.  It had a convoluted origin that will take me awhile to explain, but bear with me. It's worth it.

The hand signal literally meant that the corrected person had just done something that displeased God, and said person needed to stop it, quickly.  But the prying motion, even more literally, meant that God was prying jewels out of the misbehaving person's crown in Heaven (the crown referenced in this verse, for instance: 1 Corinthians 9:25).

"Yeah, I guess I shouldn'ta done it..."
I don't know where we got this idea.  I suspect it was from the Wonder Works production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which I seem to remember Edmund Peevensie receives a plainer crown than his siblings, perhaps because he had been so rotten.  It could also be that we conjectured (from Sunday school lessons about treasures in Heaven) that blessings from God are like piles of jewels; therefore, disapproval from God is like jewels withdrawn from our stores (Matthew 6: 19-21).

Now, the Bible doesn't talk about God demoting people in Heaven in retribution every time they steal their sister's toy or say something hateful, or even when they graduate to worse crimes. However, the hand signal my sister and I used was a useful thing because it kept God's wrath in the forefronts of our youthful minds.  The fact is, God might not do something like removing jewels from our crowns when we continue in rebellion after meeting Him, but do we ever think about what God might do instead?

It's also important to point out that it wasn't the spiritual, invisible crown that was the important thing; it was the jewels contained in that crown.  The prying out of those jewels was not as threatening as the threat of God's disapproval connected to such an act.  In an imaginative, childlike way, we tried to put a tangible measure on God's approval rating of our behavior.  You can ignore the symbolism if you wish, but the thought behind it is crucial to faith at any age.  The signal meant that we cared what God thought, and His imagined frown of disapproval brought shame and even fear.  Frequently, the prying signal was all that was necessary to get our behavior back on track.

What if God did act immediately to punish our willful disregard for His rules? (Sometimes He does.)  What would He do?  If that thought is not troubling enough, what about our great reward in Heaven? It is preposterous to believe, if we are Christians, that our actions today only affect this present life, and do not touch eternity as well.

By the way, there does seem to be some sketchy evidence in the Bible that there are ranks or levels of positions in Heaven.  Christ explains this to His disciples, who argued about their position in the kingdom of Heaven.  According to Christ, if you want to be highest in the rankings, you must be the least, and the servant of all, especially God (Mark 9: 33-35; Luke 14: 7-11).  To make it clear, the rankings are determined by works, but salvation is not earned in this way.

So, to summarize things, God's approval of what we do is something we as Christians should desperately seek after, first to avoid His wrath, and secondly to earn a greater reward in Heaven than anything we can enjoy on earth.  If it takes a child's example to learn this, we should be ready to accept the challenge.  One thing I can't answer from Scripture is the question of how many jewels are placed in your crown in Heaven for doing good deeds.  I suppose we will just have to figure that out later on.