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Merit and Reward

DAY 312

CHALLENGE

“Catholic teaching on merit is unbiblical. We can’t merit anything before God.”

DEFENSE

The term “merit” (Latin, meritum) refers to a reward. By extension, it has also come to refer to actions that God chooses to reward. The doctrine of merit is thus the biblical doctrine of rewards under another name.

The Bible is clear that our actions in this life can affect the degree of reward we receive in heaven. Jesus told us: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20–21).

Sometimes people imagine there will be no degrees of reward in heaven—that going to heaven is the only reward God gives. However, Jesus indicates that individual actions we perform are the subject of rewards.

He warns that certain actions will not receive rewards, such as doing good deeds to receive praise from men (Matt. 6:1–2, 5, 16), while other actions will receive rewards, such as doing good deeds to please God (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18, 10:41–42).

Similarly, Paul indicates that some people will enter heaven with greater rewards than others. He speaks of how individuals build on the foundation of Jesus Christ by doing various things, and he says that one day these works will be tested by fire. He then says, “If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:14–15). Some individuals, therefore, will both enter heaven and receive rewards in addition to that, but others will simply enter heaven.

Paul also discusses the nature of the rewards that we will receive, writing: “For he [God] will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom. 2:6–7).

Here he indicates that those who display “patience in well-doing” (literally, “in good work”) seek the rewards of “glory and honor and immortality” from God, and this hope does not disappoint, for God gives them “eternal life.”

TIP

See also Day 354.

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