Fall has officially arrived with hopefully all the wonderful rewards of the season following close behind. Cool and crisp weather is currently my top sought-after reward, followed closely by fuzzy clothing, fun bonfires, and just about anything with pumpkin. Of course, if you are a Starbucks fan your rewards came earlier this week as they celebrated Fall on Monday with their Fall-i-day. I’m not a Starbucks junkie but must admit that their fall menu of Pumpkin Spiced Latte, Salted Caramel Mocha, and Teavana Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte sure do sound like nice rewards for a job well done.
Perusing the new Fall menu items for Starbucks led me to further research where I learned that there are more than 80,000 ways they serve their beverages. That is a lot of caffeine! They even have a rewards system, as many places do. I have noticed though that these reward systems always seem to have a catch. They appear to be free but when you get right down to it the only way you earn your rewards is by spending more of your hard-earned dollars.
So, the more rewards you receive are only indicative of how much you spend with a company, to begin with. I suppose when you look at it like that there would be over 80,000 ways you can earn the Starbucks rewards but what about other rewards? Thankfully, the reward of salvation requires no investment beyond belief to reap the benefits of the reward. There is only one way to get saved and not only is it free, but there also is no work or promises needed to earn the ultimate reward.
What’s the Catch?
So, is there a catch? A pastor asked the children, If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?” The children chorused, ”No!” The pastor went on, ”If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Again, the children answered, ”No!” How about if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven?” Once more the children resounded, ”No!” Well, the pastor continued, thinking they were a bit more theologically advanced than he had given them credit for, ”How do I get into heaven?” Five-year-old Bobby, without missing a pause, shouted out, ”You gotta be dead!”
Bobby was right as the ultimate reward doesn’t come until we leave this world but there are so many rewards that accompany it here on earth too. The children may not have understood fully the reward of faith, but they did clearly grasp what many do not. God offers salvation as a totally free without strings attached gift. It is because of this free reward that we should respond with gratitude, praise, and pure joy in the life He brings to us.
Free Rewards for All
This free reward is difficult for many of us to accept. We often feel compelled to make all attempts to earn or work our way to God just like we work or earn our way in the world. Many of us, even the long faithful, hold the mindset that we must earn our way to heaven by volunteering to help the unfortunate, helping at church, serving in the community, and countless other very worthy and noble conditions. But the fact is there simply is nothing we do that will allow us to make the one-way trip to paradise outside of our simple faith.
God doesn’t save us because He likes us better or because we show more effort than someone else. He doesn’t grant us rewards for ability, smarter choices, or even acts of service. We can’t earn it because He gave it. He loves you just like He loves me and as equally as He loves everyone no matter what we look like, what we do, or how we act. God offers salvation freely through His son as a gift. No, it wasn’t free as there was a steep price paid for our unearned rewards but that is the true beauty of the gift.
Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:9 (NLT)
Faulty Measurements of Good Deeds
Because God saves us by our faith alone our faith then eliminates the pride that we often want to tie to a good deed we perform. For it is our faith that holds the highest honor for what God has done that issues the reward. Our actions of today, yesterday, or even tomorrow do not affect the reward if our faith holds true. Yet, we so often still attempt to use our own faulty standards to justify the free rewards given to us by God.
Johnny walked into the kitchen and informed his mother that he discovered he was six feet tall. When she inquired about how he determined this, he told her he had used his shoe to measure and that he was six shoes tall. With a smile full of love, she told him that his shoe was not a foot long. He insisted, ”But Mom, it’s got to be because my foot’s in it!” Often, we find ourselves using a faulty measurement too on not only our own goodness but others as well.
Faith, however, admits that we can’t keep the law or measure up to God’s standards. We need help and it is through our faith that our relationship with God grows not our performance. It is God’s intention that our salvation will result in acts of service for others. For it is out of our pure gratitude for the rewards that God gives us freely that we seek to help and serve others with kindness, love, and gentleness. We are not saved for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build up the church. It is only by helping liberate others with the knowledge that the rewards of God and gift of Christ aren’t earned that this will occur.
Work Does Not Make Free
In Charles AdÃ©s Fishma’s book, Blood to Remember, he writes that above the entrance to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Germany were the words Arbeit Macht Frei. The words mean ”Work makes free.” It was a bold-faced lie suggesting that if the prisoners worked hard, they would be given liberty. The promised freedom was a horrifying death.
Unfortunately, many people believe that if they do their best along with good works on earth they will earn the liberty of heaven. This, however, is not true and without the knowledge of salvation, they will learn too late that good works do not earn freedom. It is the blood of Christ that liberates. He died to give us freedom from the penalty of sin. God loves us, chose us, and sent Christ to die for us. We have the rewards that come with eternal life through faith in Him because He broke the power of death with His resurrection.
Won’t you challenge yourself to accept the free rewards of God with only your gratitude? Find conviction to focus on the Good News of the forgiveness of sins and freedom from guilt. Allow your motivation to gain momentum through the receiving of forgiveness you need and that you offer others in your knowledge and sharing of all that God rewards you with. Lastly, surround yourself with the comfort of knowing that each day offers refreshment with the knowledge that you are right with God.
Happy Fall with pumpkins, spices, and all the niceness of cooler weather
Love in Christ,
Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but Heaven.
What are Your Thoughts?
Do you accept freely the rewards that God grants you through your faith in Christ? Have you found yourself trying to earn your way into God’s graces? Share your thoughts on the truly free rewards of Christ.
Credits Fishma, C. A. (2007). Blood to Remember:2nd edition. Frontenac: Time Being Books. Huffpost. (2017, December 6). Food and Drink: FACT: There Are 80,000 Ways To Drink A Starbucks Beverage. Retrieved from Huffpost Lifestyle: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/starbucks_n_4890735.html