If you are following HaShem so that you can receive a prize at the end of your life, you are not following HaShem.
Who doesn’t like to win a prize? We all want to win something, be it money, cars, houses, or even fame. A prize is something given in recognition for winning a competition or completing some other achievement.
Many people today believe in the idea that those who are righteous will receive a reward in heaven in recognition for becoming and remaining a Christian. The New Testament gives grand stories about mansions and streets of gold. People all over the world are living their lives in order to get the prize. We hear such analogies as running the good race, receiving a crown, receiving our reward, etc. This is a control technique used by the church. Every good Christian knows that they are in a competition against evil. If they succumb to the evil they are banished to hell for eternity. But if they win the fight, they are rewarded with an eternal life in heaven, living in a mansion.
This is a powerful technique. Consider, if you will, how people lived during the early days of the church. The vast majority of people were poor. Poverty, in those days, was not like poverty today. Today, at least in some countries, the poor are cared for very well, at least by the standard of those living back in those early days. We have food stamps, health care, subsidized housing, and a myriad of other forms of assistance. A poor person by today’s standard would be considered wealthy by the standard of those early Christians. Now consider this. If you were living back then, in those horrible conditions, dirt floors, one room house, very low wages and someone promised you a mansion, would you be willing to do whatever they said in order to get it? If you didn’t know any better, you would, especially if all you had to do was to believe a certain way.
Those beliefs have been handed down from generation to generation until today. People today still cling to that hope that they will somehow win their mansion in heaven. The need for control over the masses is not so important for the church anymore. This is why they stopped the forced conversions. The church has become so diverse that they can maintain their control over the masses by a different method. They use smaller groups of like-minded Christians, each one setting the policies for their own groups while still managing to hold onto the same core beliefs.
There is a problem with this “competition” mentality. This idea does not come from the Hebrew Scriptures. These things were dreamed up by the church as a means to get the people to follow their regulations. The expectation of living with Jesus in Heaven cannot be found anywhere in the Torah or the Prophets. In fact, we are told that we will live in this world. Take a look at Psalms 67.
1. For the Conductor, a song with instrumental music, a psalm.
2. May God be gracious to us and bless us; may He make His countenance shine upon us forever,
3. that Your way be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
4. The nations will extol You, O God; all the nations will extol You.
5. The nations will rejoice and sing for joy, for You will judge the peoples justly and guide the nations on earth forever.
6. The peoples will extol You, O God; all the peoples will extol You,
7. for the earth will have yielded its produce, and God, our God, will bless us.
8. God will bless us; and all, from the farthest corners of the earth, shall fear Him.
We are told, “for You will judge the peoples justly and guide the nations on earth forever.” Does this say we will live in Heaven? No. It says “on the earth forever.” There is no competition. It’s not a race. Each one of us is here to live our lives and to connect with the creator. The only competitions that exist are those we create. I think the idea of winning something comes from the Greek influences of the early church. Greek culture was dominated by competitiveness and the prestige it brought. The Greeks are also largely responsible for western thought. This has caused one of the most significant problems with Christianity. They try to apply western thought to an eastern religion. Jewish thought has little to do with competition or prestige. Jewish thought is based on how well we can live our lives in such a way that is pleasing to the Creator of the Universe. We don’t care about winning a mansion on a golden street just down the road from Paul’s house.
If you occupy your time connecting to the creator, you don’t need a mansion. Who needs a mansion when your soul is already attached to G-d himself? Leave those foolish notions of riches and prestige behind. Focus on what G-d has for you here in this world. He wants to connect to you. Learn His ways so that you may know Him. Study His Torah. Learn from the Prophets of Israel. Wrap yourself in the Sacred Writings and Know Him. The writings of Paul and his followers are meaningless. They do not lead to salvation but to a lifetime of striving to win something that isn’t even there.