Jason and Kyle both were salesmen for the ABC company and both appeared to do acceptable work. One day both were called in to the boss’ office. Kyle went in first and was told that he was being given a raise and a promotion, but no reason was given for this. Jason went in next and was fired with no explanation given. He was just told to clean out his desk and leave immediately. Needless to say, a great deal of frustration and confusion will surround this company and its employees if this is the way it operates. Employees of the ABC company will live in fear. No one likes to be clueless on what is expected of them, especially when so much rides on how well one produces.
Fortunately, the criteria for our evaluation at the Judgment Seat (bema) of the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly given to us. In the last study we observed the instruction of the Apostle Paul on the matter in the key passage found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5. The first criterion that he gave was “how closely did our lives align with God’s truth”? As we served Him and lived for Him, did we do so according to the commands, principles and guidelines found in the Scriptures. This is a clear, objective standard for us. As he told Timothy, we will not receive the prize unless we play according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5). In this study, we will now look at the other two criteria that Judge Jesus will use as He evaluates the lives of His servants.
CRITERION #2: WERE WE FAITHFUL IN SERVING JESUS?
One of several important designations for believers in the New Testament is that of a “steward”. This word is used by Paul as he describes what will take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“Let a man regard us in this matter, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor. 4:1-2)
A steward is one to whom the master has given many things. The steward is to diligently work with these things that belong to his master. The issue that is most important is that the steward must be faithful. And because all things have been given to the steward, he is held accountable for how faithful he has been in the use of those things. Paul further reminded the Christians at Corinth:
“For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)
Each believer has been given much by the Lord, although we are all so very different from one another. (Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25:15 that He does deal differently with His servants). But all of us have been given natural abilities and spiritual gifts. Each has been given a level of intelligence and a level of financial resources. All believers have been given time and opportunities as well as a role in our families and churches. All that we have has been given to us by the Lord and He expects us to be faithful in using these things to serve Him and bring honor to Him. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be the place where our individual stewardship is evaluated.
Unfortunately, we often compare ourselves with others and see ourselves as inferior to other believers. We all too often assume that those prominent Christians (such as, pastors of megachurches or those who are on television or write many books or those who sing wonderful solos at church) will be the ones who receive great reward and have prominence in Messiah’s kingdom. But that may not be case at all. The great issue to the Lord Jesus is that of faithfulness. We are called upon TO BE FAITHFUL, NOT TO BE FAMOUS! The Lord Jesus will evaluate us on what He has given to us, not what He has given to someone else. This should be a great encouragement to us. Fellow believers, do not compare yourself with others because Judge Jesus will not be doing that. The issue is an individual one. Were you and I faithful to all that He has given to us.
CRITERION #3: WHAT WERE OUR MOTIVES AS WE SERVED CHRIST?
The Lord is always interested in our heart attitudes and He is in this matter as well. Our motive should be the glory of God and the approval of God. It would seem that every now and then we should ask ourselves the question “why am I doing what I am doing?” Our motivations are important even though it is sometimes difficult for us to fully discern our motives. Again, the Apostle Paul mentioned this matter to the believers at Corinth.
“I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:4-5)
It would appear that periodically we ought to try and identify “why” we are doing and living the way we are.
Paul was a faithful, devoted follower of Jesus and in his life he observed others who were not so pure. He mentions several wrong motives that could be spotted in others. He noted that some served the Lord because it was profitable to do so. They merchandised the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17). They did what they did because of the financial rewards that they got. He also observed believers who served out of personal pride (Phil. 1:15-17). They were building a kingdom, but it was their own and not Christ’s. He makes it clear that it is possible for one to serve Christ because it brings with it positions of prominence or power. So why do we want to be a lead singer in the worship service; or chair a committee; or be an elder or deacon; or have a lead part in the Christmas pageant or Easter cantata? Since Judge Jesus will be taking a look at our motives, we should probably to that as well.
While all of us as God’s children are equally loved by Him, He will be just and righteous in the manner in which He will deal with His children. He will evaluate us as individual and will not compare us with others. His evaluation will not be arbitrary, (depending on He feels at the moment!) but will be objective. If reward is given or if reward is withdrawn, it will be clear to all as to the reasons why. This can be the greatest day for each of us stewards of Christ.
In our next study on the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will take a look at what the New Testament reveals will be the rewards that are given to believers who have met the criteria of the Lord Jesus.