Many Christians feel slightly awkward about the idea of receiving a crown or reward from God. For a quick check, take a look at James 1:12, 2 Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10. Crowns for loving God, for loving the appearing of Christ, for serving as an elder, for remaining faithful to the point of death . . . crowns, for people. Awkward. Surely crowns should only go to God?
One of the great challenges we all face is extricating ourselves from the brine in which we are pickled in this world. Actually, we can’t do it. We are so immersed in the glory grabbing ethos in which we live that we can’t see any other way. This world has become our home and we need someone from outside to come in and rescue us. God has done that in Christ. Without that rescue we have no hope of understanding how heavenly crowns work.
So we are here, in a fallen world where power is corrupted, where power is abusive, and where power is always linked to clambering over and suppressing others. If someone is at the top of the pyramid, then they must have stood on others to get there. In this world it is hard to see how power can ever not go hand in glove with corruption and selfishness. That’s this world. What about in another and better world?
We should take the angst we feel about crowns and rewards and then let that energy drive us into the Bible to explore what God is like. How does God wear His crowns? Why would He ever give any away?
The Bible’s presentation of God gives to us the fact of three persons within the one God. The Father is ever the initiator. Surely He has the right to demand His position, the worship of everyone else and an exclusive right to eternal preeminence. Indeed He has every right, but what does He do? He elevates, honours and glorifies the Son. He gives everything to the Son. He puts all things under His feet. He gives Him the name above every name.
Alright, so the Son is the ultimate pinnacle of the heavenly pyramid. Fine, all crowns to Him then. But what does the Son do? Ultimately the Son will subject everything, and be subject, to the Father. In the most humbly glorious way imaginable we find the heavenly interchange to be “to me, to you” as the Son receives and reciprocates the totally giving and selfless nature of the Father.
Fine, but what about the Spirit? Is there not tension within the Trinity because the Spirit is never crowned or elevated like the Son is? There would be if the Spirit was from us. But the Spirit is also forever proceeding from both the Father and the Son, so His nature is like theirs, so He too is humbly preferring the other – the Holy Spirit is the humble Spirit because that is a key feature of the holiness that is uniquely God’s. No clamour. No grabbing. No “me first.” Glorious divine humility.
So, what about us then? Surely we can’t come into that world and do anything but corrupt it, can we? We certainly would if we entered unchanged from this world. If God gave me a crown right now I know I would make a mess by immediately feeling the powerful impulse of my rebellious flesh to honour myself. God is wise enough not to give us crowns too soon. Once the transformation of our life, in full heavenly sanctification is complete, then we can receive crowns and rewards.
In that day we won’t consider elevating ourselves. Neither will we bring with us a false humility that rejects the crown. Instead we will handle crowns and rewards in a way that befits the heavenly world of God’s love that we have entered.
Crowns, for people. Awkward. Surely crowns should only go to God? Ultimately they will. Surely the heavenly way is to take off the crown and give it away as we see in Revelation 4:10. And in casting our crowns at His feet we will have joined in the love-driven glory-giving life of the Trinity.