In his book “Heavenly Rewards,” my friend Mark Hitchcock tells the story of Arthur Barry, considered to be one of the world’s greatest jewelry thieves. Over his criminal career in the 1920’s he committed 150 robberies, mostly jewelry, with an estimated worth of $5 to $10 million (a tremendous amount at that time). He was a master at his craft and took personal pride in his work. Like Robin Hood, he only stole from the rich and social elite. He studied his victims carefully and planned his jobs meticulously. In fact, he often wore a tuxedo in the commission of his crimes, and often did his “work” in broad daylight.
Since sin finds us out, Barry was eventually caught, and spent seventeen years in prison. After he got out, he went to work at a roadside diner making only $50 a week. A news reporter caught up with him and interviewed him about his checkered career. Barry talked freely and concluded the interview with these telling words: “I am not very good at drawing morals, but when I was a young lad I had intelligence, charm, the ability to get alone with people and guts. I could have made something out of my life, but I didn’t. So, when you write the story of my life and tell about all these robberies, don’t leave out the really big one. You can tell them that Arthur Barry robbed Jessie Livermore, the Wall Street baron. You can tell them that he robbed the cousin of the King of England. But don’t forget to tell them that, most of all Arthur Barry robbed Arthur Barry.”
Now there is a thought; becoming a victim of yourself, robbing yourself! The Bible talks about robbing God when we withhold the tithes and offerings that belong to God’s house and God’s work (Mal. 3:8-12). The Bible talks about false teachers and teaching that robs us of the glories of the gospel, the sufficiency of Christ and the completeness of the salvation we find in Him (Col. 2:6-10). But the Bible also talks about a Christian robbing himself of heavenly reward though lack of vigilance and diligence. Listen to the apostle John, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). The text is clear; sloppy service, mixed motives, careless choices, worldly ways, optional obedience, deficient doctrine, and much more, all have the ability to rob us of rich reward in the life to come (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Rev. 22:12).
The doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ reminds Believers that each day we are either winning for ourselves greater happiness in the life to come, or robbing ourselves of eternal joys. When we shortchange God in our giving, when we are chintzy in our devotion to Christ, when we defraud another of love, we are really robbing ourselves.
Listen! Heaven is not a reward but there will be rewards in heaven. Works will not get anyone of us into heaven, but the Bible seems clear that works will determine what Believers get in heaven and a renewed earth (Matt. 5:10-12; 16:27; 19:27-29; 25:19-23). Don’t rob yourself of an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God through lack of spiritual diligence, development, and devotion (2 Peter 1:5-11).
Remember, as Jim Elliott reminded us, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”