The Kingdom and the Illusion
I am writing this devotion from a veteran’s cemetery as I await the arrival of a funeral procession. The brother in Christ we are coming to celebrate served his country well, and today his country, family and friends will show respect for his devotion.
Veteran’s cemeteries are unique in their uniformity. Rows upon rows of modest stones mark the graves of the men and women who helped defend our freedom. The nature of a veteran’s cemetery accentuates a point we know to be true, but sometimes forget amid large monuments and mausoleums: death has no class distinction. The memory and legacy of the deceased varies, but everyone takes the same amount of goods into the afterlife.
This doesn’t mean some lives don’t have a greater impact on earth than others. In fact, the cemetery where I am today is named after a man who worked tirelessly throughout his life in support of veterans. It is also true that some of the greatest work in our world is often performed by people who receive little or no recognition.
Sometimes the grand displays that mark the burial spots of the dead correctly represent the impact they had on earth. At other times, they seem to claim things that never were. And certainly there are countless unmarked graves containing the remains of some of history’s greatest human beings.
But, if for a moment we think we can somehow discern one’s heavenly reward based on any of these things, we are mistaken. Worldly acclamation is illusionary. Eternal reward, on the other hand, is reality. Jesus once said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:27)
Can our earthly works provide a glimpse of our heavenly reward? Absolutely! If we weren’t aware of the things we can do here to please God how would we know what to store up for eternity? There is nothing wrong with considering how God might reward us, or referencing someone else’s good works as we speculate on his or her reward.
My point is simply that we should not be drawn into the false notion of valuing a man or woman’s life based on earthly status alone. To do so is to set ourselves up for some bad investments while we are here. On the other hand, if we determine to serve the kingdom first, a lot of worldly accolades might get tossed in for free. Yet, this side-benefit isn’t the goal. It is rather to separate ourselves from the false illusion of worldly success and determine to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
The friend we came to bury today will surely receive many rewards from God. We can’t predict what they might be, but for starters we know everyone who dies in Jesus gets to worship Him in person.
Amazing! We can spend our lives accumulating trophies and in the end our worship is one of the few things we take with us. Someone might say, “Then we had better grab all we can while we are here!” I say, “Why? I don’t see any of that stuff today in this cemetery.”
Don’t be taken in by the illusion. It really isn’t worth it in the long-run. Farewell, friend. Enter into your reward.