the weblog of Alan Knox

Reward in the Sermon on the Mount

Posted by on Feb 29, 2008 in discipleship, scripture | Comments Off

As I mentioned in the post “The Audience for the Sermon on the Mount“, I recently taught through the entire Sermon on the Mount. Like I said, I did not teach every section of the Sermon, but instead I pointed out the structure, the major themes and emphases, and suggested a purpose for the Sermon.

One of the major themes that I noticed in the Sermon on the Mount was the idea of reward and treasure that runs through the Sermon. In Matthew 5:12, citizens of the kingdom find great reward in heaven in spite of being persecuted because of Christ and righteousness. In 5:46, there is no reward for merely loving those who return that love. In 6:1-18, we are not do charitable deeds, pray, or fast in order to be rewarded by men. Instead, we are to do those things for God and trust him to reward us.

In Matthew 6:19-21, we should not concern ourselves with earthly treasures, but instead we should seek heavenly treasures. If we treasure earthly things, then our heart is set on earthly things. If we treasure heavenly things, then our heart is set on heavenly things. In 6:25-34, Matthew explains that these earthly treasures can reveal themselves as clothing, food, drink, even life span (health). Instead of focusing on these things, we should seek the kingdom and righteousness.

I think there is a purpose for these twin threads of reward and treasure. Sometimes, it is suggested that the more “righteous” things we do on earth, the more stuff we will get when we get to heaven – crowns, mansions, etc. I think this interpretation misses the point. Matthew is not trying to change our focus from earthly stuff to heavenly stuff.

Instead, Matthew is shifting our focus from earthly stuff to God himself. God should be our reward, our treasure, or – the psalmist says – our portion. If God is not enough – if we think we need God and other stuff – then there is something wrong with our heart – our heart needs to be fixed.

If we do our good deeds, or pray, or fast so that people notice us, then our heart is not in the right place. But, if we do our good deeds, or pray, or fast so that we will get stuff in heaven, then our heart is not in the right place in that case either. Instead, whatever we do, we should do for God and we should allow him and him alone to be our reward – our treasure.

As I studied through these threads of reward and treasure in the Sermon on the Mount, I recognized that many times my focus is not on God. He is not my treasure. I need a changed heart.