The Final Smile

There’s a popular television show in Indonesia called Minta Tolong!, which basically means “I need help!” Every week a hidden camera crew sends out a down-trodden person into the streets to ask for help from strangers. It’s sort of like the American TV show, What Would You Do?, with John Quiñones, but the Indonesian version has a twist of a reward at the end.

In the first episode of Minta Tolong! I watched, an actress playing a destitute beggar went from person to person, asking for a blanket for her child. She was holding a ratty newspaper and offered to trade it if they would give her a blanket. Person after person said no. She would plead with them, “Please, my child is cold and doesn’t have a blanket. Don’t you have an extra one at your house?” They would brush her off and she would then go on to the next person. After numerous rejections one kind soul finally said yes, giving the beggar lady a sling that was using for her own child. The beggar then gave her newspaper to the kind lady, and inside it was a very large sum of money. The crew came out and interviewed the kind hearted soul, who was overcome with emotion and didn’t want to accept the money at first. She finally did at the interviewer’s insistence as tears streamed down her shocked face.

How many of the people who said no would have said yes, if they knew that inside that dirty newspaper was a loot of cash? All of them of course! They would have gladly done a good deed if they knew they were going to be rewarded for it.


You are going to be rewarded for the way you live your life. It will happen at a point in time that the Bible calls the Judgment Seat of Christ:


So we make it our goal to please Him…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.[i]


Paul explains what this “Day” will be like further in his first letter to the Corinthian believers:


By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.[ii]


The foundation of our relationship with God is His grace, revealed in Jesus Christ and manifested at the cross. Jesus Himself laid down the foundation of your house of faith when he laid down his life. He endured that cross, despising its shame, for the joy set before him of bringing you to the Father.[iii]


But this doesn’t mean believers aren’t going to be judged, and this is where many believers get a little fuzzy. We’re riding on the train bound for glory with a free ticket in hand, and we kind of think it doesn’t really matter how we live this life, because we’ve got that golden ticket and we’re guaranteed to get in.


I’ve heard this analogy before by Jamie Lash, a Bible teacher who co-wrote an excellent book on the subject entitled,This Was Your Life! (Chosen Books, 1998). Jamie asked would happen on the first day of a college class if the professor said, “Hey, I just want everyone to know that you all get an A. It doesn’t matter if you come to class or not, do the assignments, or take any of the tests. Everyone is guaranteed an A.”


What would that do to the morale of the class? How many students would show up the next day? How many of them would even be brave enough to exit right then? Most believers assume we’re all going to kind of get an A. I’ve got my ticket, I’ve been saved by grace, and now I’ll go pursue my own interests, thank you very much.


But Paul points out, even though that foundation is a totally free, paid-in-full gift, how we build on it is totally up to us. “Each one should be careful how he builds.” Our task is to choose the building materials, and His task on that Day will be to test the “quality” of our work. That’s quality, not quantity. It’s not how much we produce in terms of Kingdom Domestic Product, but the quality of our ministry in the lives of people we’ve impacted. Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” to the servant who received two talents and made two more, and to the one who received five talents and made five more.[iv]

The final exam of our lives sort of gives me a dry feeling in my throat, but keep in mind on that Day He will be looking for that which He can reward. I’s not pass/fail but rather an awards banquet. Every time we gave when no one else knew, every time we made a stand for righteousness when no one was looking, every small decision to follow Christ’s example because of our sheer love for Him. That little ministry deal you did so that those kids would be impacted? That was a big deal to Him and he wants all heaven to know. That’s the stuff that He intends to reward.

I remember as a boy cleaning up my room, or maybe an extra ordinary task like cleaning up the garage, the whole time imagining my parents’ faces when they got home from work. They would be so happy! They would be so proud of me! All this mucking around in this dirty garage was going to be worth it because they are going to appreciate and affirm me. We need to imagine our father’s face more when we are mucking out the garages of our busy lives. That smile on our Father’s face when He gets home will make all this work totally worth it.

The smile on the face of Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ will make all your work for Him more than worth it.

— Mike O’Quin, author of Java Wake and Growing Desperate

Related Blog Posts: Undercover Boss and Magnum Opus

[i] II Corinthians 5:10

[ii] I Corinthians 3:10-15

[iii] Hebrews 12:2

[iv] Matthew 25:21 and 23

Undercover Boss

What was the last novel, TV show or movie that made you cry?

John Eldredge says that we should pay attention to when art touches us so deeply that the tears peak out. That’s a big theme in his insightful book, Epic (Thomas Nelson, 2007), how we are wired for story. “There is a heart that God put within you and every story that you love,” he elaborated more on this theme in a Ransomed Heart Podcast, “and everything that stirs you to passion is reminding you of the life that you were meant to live, that you were created to live.”

This is slightly embarrassing to admit, but the show “Undercover Boss” gets me almost every time. If you’ve never watched it, it’s a reality TV show where the jet-setting CEO of a company discards his suit, disguises himself in blue collar working garb and mixes it up with the employees in the trenches to get a feel of what is really happening in the company he or she runs. At the end of the show the CEO’s true identity is revealed and the unsuspecting employees get rewarded for how they performed in the presence of their stealth boss. Great concept.

The first time I saw the show was on a long flight, and that’s when the first tears came, luckily hidden in the hum and darkness of an airplane at night. In that episode, the CEO and president of Directv, Mike White, pretends he is an out of work salesman named Tom Peters who is participating in a special company program where cameras will follow two job candidates around during their training phases in the large satellite TV company. Mike as Tom gets trained by different technicians and service representatives, all of whom evaluate his performance as a trainee.

Phil the service technician shows Tom the ropes and how important it is to go the extra mile with the customer. During a drive from a new customer’s house back to the warehouse, Phil shares about his own escape from drug addiction and his efforts now to serve troubled kids in a youth ministry he leads.

Tom is also coached by a customer service representative named Chloe who seems to always have a positive attitude with frustrated customers while troubleshooting with them on the phone. Over lunch she shares how her background of living in foster care inspired her to want to go into law or business in order help kids also from difficult backgrounds. She does her shifts at Directv to work her way through college.

The dramatic crescendo of the show comes at the end when Tom the trainee reveals that he is really Mike the CEO of their 23-billion-dollar company.

Mike praises a dumbfounded Phil for his excellent training and customer service and rewards him by offering to adopt some of his suggestions company-wide, and even more touching for Phil, gives a personal check of $5,000 toward Phil’s ministry which will enable his youth group to go on a mission trip.

During a follow-up interview Phil quotes from Proverbs: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).

“From the character of how you carry yourself one day you’ll sit among kings and here I am sitting among a CEO,” Phil said. “I feel real good about being rewarded right now for hard work, and the real work that I did, it was recognized.”

Mike also reveals his true identity to a shocked Chloe and raves about her positive spirit even with difficult customers. He announces that Directv is starting a scholarship program for employees and that she will be the first recipient. He also offers to meet with her regularly to help mentor her in her promising career.

Through tears she asks, “Can I give you a hug?”

Something moved me in how these simple people, struggling through their lives and trying to be decent human beings, were honored and rewarded by their bosses in a generous way.

Stories with spiritual undertones touch me the deepest, way more than a revenge motif in an action flick or over-the-tip CGI washes out of your system as quickly as caffeine. Stories with deep spiritual themes stay with us the longest because they are calling to us, as deep calls to deep. I really agree with Eldredge here.

That’s the deeper reason why the “Undercover Boss” episode gave me misty eyes. Believe it or not, you and I are living in a storyline in which our behavior and character will be rewarded by our boss at the end of the show. But he’s like no boss you’ve ever had. He has a true and noble heart, and He is looking for ways to reward you with heaven’s honor. In a previous blog post, The Final Smile, I try to unpack a little bit more the theology and inspiration of being rewarded at what the Bible calls the “Judgment Seat of Christ.”

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus said that we will be rewarded in whatever way we served the hungry, thirsty, homeless, un-clothed, sick and imprisoned: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).

We have an Undercover Boss. He’s got a sneaky smile on His face and a twinkle in His eye. His name is Jesus and he is impersonating “the least of these” every day, all around us. He is looking for that which He can reward, as He promised: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

Let this truth move you today, more than just to tears.

— Mike O’Quin, author of Java Wake and Growing Desperate

Related Blog Posts: Magnum Opus, The Final Smile