Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11–12
My aunt lives in a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage. She has a large, beautiful yard. She has no mortgage, having paid it off before she retired. She has a huge television, leather couches, and a Lexus. I could go on.
This aunt tried to tell me that we Christians are persecuted second-class citizens in Canada. I couldn’t help but laugh in her face.
In other countries, police raid children’s Bible classes, militants shoot Christian teachers, and churches are bombed. In Canada and the US, we’re expected to keep our mouths shut if we think gay people are icky. There is no comparison.
I attended my church’s annual general meeting this year. The financial statement was fascinating, with numbers in multiple millions of dollars. That’s not persecution.
I can openly attend and talk about services at my church with anyone I meet anywhere. That’s not persecution.
Every year, the churches in my city get together and organize a Praise in the Park event in downtown Regina where they play worship music in the open air for anyone to listen. That’s not persecution.
It feels like an epidemic of Christians in North America recently crying persecution for every little thing that bothers us. It’s baffling until you realize that Jesus said we would be blessed if we were persecuted. Then it all becomes so very self-servingly clear.
North American Christians feel like we’re being left out of the promises Jesus made for a “great…reward in heaven.” We feel we’re entitled to this reward, but Jesus said we would get it if we were persecuted, so we gotta be persecuted. Somehow. Even if we have to twist the definition of the word until it’s completely unrecognizable.
Please stop. We are not entitled to rewards in heaven. There are multiple Scriptures that say just the opposite: everything God has given us is free and unmerited. We cannot deserve it. And seeking out or inventing persecution isn’t going to help your case.
If you want a reward in heaven, you’d be better served to follow this Scripture:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34–40
But please notice that the righteous did not do these things for reward, as they don’t know why they’re being rewarded. See where they ask when they did these things? They did good out of the goodness of their hearts. If you’re doing good for reward, beware:
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. Matthew 6:1–2 (emphasis mine)
We need to be careful, my fellow Christians. Next time we’re tempted to yell about how persecuted we are, maybe we should sit down and shut up and instead think about what we can do to help the stranger, the sick, the prisoner, the LGBTQ+, the poor, the orphan. Not for reward, but because that’s what Jesus would do.