The biblical canon ends with Jesus making this final statement:
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. (Revelation 22:12)
Reward, reward, reward—it fills the pages of both Testaments. Saint Paul expected to be rewarded for his service to Christ, as have the saints down through the ages. Patrick, that mighty missionary to the Irish, prayed daily, “In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward. ... So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.” It is our barren age that is out of sync with the tradition. So C. S. Lewis could write,
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.
“The unblushing promises of reward” stopped me in my tracks the first time I read it years ago. I’ve never heard a contemporary Christian use it. Unblushing means boldfaced, unashamed; it means brazen, outlandish, and thoroughly unapologetic. Did you know the promises of reward offered to you in Scripture are bold, unashamed, brazen? Did you even know that reward is a central theme in the teachings of Jesus, and in the Bible as a whole? I think a false humility has crept in; I think we somehow see ourselves above our forebears in the faith when we ignore the category entirely and set out to live the life given to us in Scripture. It is entirely untrue to the nature of God, and to human nature.
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? (1 Corinthians 9:7)
God seems to be of the opinion that no one should be expected to sustain the rigors of the Christian life without very robust and concrete hopes of being brazenly rewarded for it. Now, yes, yes—there is a place for altruism, no doubt about it. But we have in our pride or in our poverty let a false humility creep in.