Reward: In Revelation 22:12 Jesus says that He is coming with His ‘reward’ “to give to everyone according to his work.”. ‘Reward’ translates the Greek word misthos, with its basic meaning of ‘wage’ or ‘payment’ due for work done or services rendered. The word can mean payment at a fixed rate, as in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16), where the first workers are hired at a denarius a day. But in other places, as here, the emphasis is on payment according to the work itself. In 1 Corinthians 3:8, Paul emphasises that although he and Apollos “are one” in the work they do, yet each will be rewarded according to his own work, which presumably includes both its quantity and its quality. The nuance here is that of ‘recompense’, which comes from a Latin verb containing the idea of ‘weighing or balancing’. The due reward is found by weighing the work done. And for the followers of Christ, there is no ‘reward’ for merely doing that which they would do anyway, such as loving their friends (Matt 5:46). Their discipleship requires more. And there is no reward for doing only what one is compelled to do (1 Corinthians 9:17-18), or for doing no more than one’s duty (Luke 17:9-10). In the end, though, as the parable of the workers in the vineyard makes clear, the gift of eternal life is of grace, not reward: a reward is what we earn; eternal life is beyond earning. ‘Reward’ comes from Old Norman French, with its cognate form ‘regard’ from Old French.
A Word in Season