In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about three practices we call spiritual disciplines — giving, praying, and fasting (Matt. 6:1-18). He not only told us the right way to engage in spiritual disciplines but also how that way yields the right kind of reward.
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. (Matt. 6:1)
Think carefully about this: Do you want the short-lived, shallow, and subjective applause of others for what you have done or the eternal, worthwhile reward from God?
Within the sections on giving, praying, and fasting, we read that those who engage in these disciplines to be seen by others “have received their reward in full” (v. 2, 5, 16). That moment of recognition is all there is. That feeling of importance is fleeting.
An eternal aspect to the reward:
As we continue on in the Sermon on the Mount the very next challenge Jesus gives following His instructions on giving, praying, and fasting is as follows:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
Could it be that when we give, pray, and fast for and because of God, we are storing up treasures in heaven? If so, the conclusion, based on these verses, is that it is so much better than any of the short-lived rewards we get on earth.
A more immediate reward for engaging in spiritual disciplines:
We must be careful to note that Jesus does not specify how God “will reward you” (v. 4, 6, 18). It may be something we receive in heaven but perhaps there is something we will reap now, here on earth, as well. It may be a tangible reward but it may also be intangible, something inward. Since Jesus doesn’t describe the reward, neither should we. But, we can trust that it will be good and worthwhile. Neither does Jesus state that the reward will be the same for each person. Perhaps as a result of giving, praying, and fasting to be seen by Him, not to impress others, the reward might vary from person to person based on what the individual needs.
If nothing else, we will benefit from such an approach to the spiritual disciplines by getting to know our Lord better, deeper, more intimately. As we noted in a previous post on the spiritual disciplines, the Apostle Paul did what he did for the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8-11). Even if we can’t identify any other kind of reward, this should be enough. What better reward could there be?