In my days in the college classroom, it was pretty clear that students liked to know what would be used to evaluate them. Simply put they wanted to know, “how do I get an “A” in here?” They would not buy into the idea that I would arbitrarily give them a grade at the end of the course depending on how I might feel at that moment. Whether it is in the classroom, on the job or a dozen other situations, we like to know what is the criteria for our evaluation.
Fortunately, the criteria for our evaluation at the Judgment Seat (bema) of the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly given to us in the Scriptures. We don’t have to speculate as to what will be used in our evaluation. In our previous study we observed the first criterion given by the Apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5, the first of the criteria was given, and that 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 indicates that there will be a clear, objective standard for us. As Paul told Timothy, we will not receive the prize unless we play according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5). This certainly suggests something of the importance of being people of the Book. We will now look at the other two criteria that the Lord Jesus will use as He evaluates the lives of His servants.
CRITERION #2: WERE WE FAITHFUL IN SERVING JESUS?
In the New Testament, each believer is said to be 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)
Although we are all so very different from one another, each of us is a steward and has been given much by the Lord. (Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25:15 that He does deal differently with His servants—there are some servants who are given 1 or 2 talents, while some are given 5). 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. Each of us have a role in our families and churches. All these have been given to us by the Lord and He expects us to be faithful in using these things to live for Him and bring honor to Him. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be the place where our individual stewardship is evaluated. It does, and it will, make an important difference in what we did with all that has been given to us.
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 uponTO BE FAITHFUL, NOT TO BE FAMOUS! Did we “hang in there” and live faithfully for the Lord even in tough times. The Lord Jesus will evaluate us on what He has given to us, not on what He has given to someone else. This should be a great encouragement to us. Fellow believers, do not compare yourself with others because the Lord Jesus will not be doing that. The issue is an individual one. Were you and I faithful to Him in using what He has given to us?
CRITERION #3: WHAT WERE OUR MOTIVES AS WE SERVED CHRIST?
The Lord is apparently interested in our heart attitudes as we live and serve. 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 did not live as he did. 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. They put a price tag on what they did. He also observed believers who served out of personal pride (Phil. 1:15-17). They were building a kingdom, but it was evidently their own and not Christ’s. Personal fame was the fuel that energized their service. Paul made it clear that it is possible for one to serve Christ because it brings with it prominence, power or profit. So, for example, we might ask ourselves why 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? Do we have people over to our house because we want to be known as a person of generous hospitality? It is sometimes hard to completely determine why we do what we do. But since Jesus will be taking a look at our motives, we should probably do that as well. And it may be that we will need to pray for Him to help us get rid of those impure or suspect motives out of our thinking. We must never underestimate the deceptive power of our flesh, and we need to ask the Holy Spirit (the only One who can defeat the flesh) to assist us in serving Christ faithfully with noble motives.
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 individuals 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. Today does count forever, and what an incredible level of joy there will be. if indeed the King says to you “well done, good steward.”