We have been looking at the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23. There Jesus said that the final criterion for permission to enter heaven is whether or not He knew the person under judgment--not whether they did good or evil works. In this article I would like to address that phenomenon. How is it that most everyone these days thinks of heaven in terms of a reward for good behavior, since Jesus plainly said that it was more a matter of whether He had found a human friend in the person under judgment?
There is a good reason. Men are arrogant.
What does arrogance have to do with believing that heaven is a reward for being good? Actually, many things--some of which we have dealt with in past articles (which, by the way, are available upon request). But, for today let us consider why men consider heaven a reward for being good. Then we shall know why arrogance is at the root.
When God made man, He put within him a spirit to energize his behavior. The apostle James says "...the body without the spirit is dead..." (James 2:26). Along with this spirit came a desire to perform well. And, with the desire to perform well came a demand to be recognized for such performance. So, the spirit of man enables his body to function (read, perform) and demands that someone recognize him for his performance. We see this everywhere. How many people, for instance, would go into boxing as a sport if there was no recognition? Suppose there was no money-recognition, no opponent-recognition, no audience-recognition, no recognition of any kind? How many would box? In fact, how many people would do most of the things they do if there were no recognition? What if a husband never received any recognition from his wife, his children, his employer, his friends, or even his church--for working hard? How long would he work hard? Now we could multiply illustrations, but I think the point is made: we thrive on recognition.
But, recognition by demand is fundamentally arrogant. It assumes that others should be impressed and turn their eyes upon us with praise and recognition. This assumption is fundamentally self-serving and, therefore, evil. What if everyone in the world was totally self-serving? The world would be filled with chaos and strife. Maybe there's the answer folks!
And, heaven as a reward for being good is the ultimate demand for recognition. It demands that God be impressed. And it assumes our goodness is real. Thus, heaven-as-a-reward is built on the foundation of human demandingness and pride. Those two elements destroy friendships; they do not build them up. So, when Jesus rejects people for not being His friend, He is rejecting them for being selfishly demanding and proud of their accomplishments. Heaven will have no such persons in it!
Jesus requires of His friends that they have humility (thus, the willingness to confess their sinfulness) and faith in Him (thus a loyalty that leaves life in His hands). Without these there is no friendship. Without friendship, no heaven.