The 2nd of the "10 Questions" section, and chapter 17 of Scot McKnights book 'The Heaven Promise.' This chapter is "What About Rewards in Heaven? What Grace Creates Remains Grace."
In addressing questions of rewards in heaven, and whether some will receive more or less, if some will be happier than others, status, etc., etc.... he notes a common American cultural problem that has arisen. He quotes Peter Kreeft in that for some reason we are very egalitarian when it comes to Heaven:
"We modern egalitarians are tempted to the primal sin of pride in the opposite way from the ancients. The old, aristocratic form of pride was the desire to be better than others. The new, democratic form is the desire not to have anyone better than yourself."
That's a huge difference in many ways, but as McKnight notes, when it comes to Heaven we need to "make up our minds on the basis of what the Bible reveals, not on the basis of our culture's preferences."
Scot uses the parable of the workers in Matthew 20:1-16 to show how Jesus makes it all about grace and not about fairness. In this parable the landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day. A little later he went out and hired some others, and agreed to pay them the same as the first. Near the end of the day he hired still more, and for the same denarius that he'd hired the first workers.
When the day was over the owner of the vineyard instructed the foreman to pay the workers, but interestingly enough, he wants the last ones hired to be paid first. In this way the first ones hired would clearly see that everyone was paid the same amount. Of course they complained. This wasn't fair?
But he answered them, "I am not being unfair. I paid you what I said I would." And the kickers is v.15, "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"
"His fundamental idea is that in the kingdom, the correlation between work and reward is out of whack. Jesus wants us to feel sympathy for those who worked more but got paid the same amount as others who worked fewer hours. Why? So we will realize that God's ways are not our ways. God is generous, while we are exacting. The parable is not about reversing the order, but instead about the end to ordering.
The whole parable comes down to the question that we read just ahead of the last line: "Or are you envious because I am generous?" Human envy is the opposite of divine generosity. God's generosity is not like our desire for order, rank, status, and hierarchy. In Heaven, God will be God, Jesus will be on the Throne, and we will all equally be gazing at God in his glory (not ours)."
Here are the big ideas at the end of the chapter:
First, all talk of reward (or of our status or our capacities to enjoy God) distracts from God's glory and the promise that we will experience intense, satisfying pleasures forever more.
Second, there is no talk of gradiations in heaven in John's book of Revelation. Read his last visions in Revelation 20-22 with this in mind, and you'll see that no one is more important than anyone else.
Third, it is far wiser to see the language of reward as God's way of motivating us to be faithful.
Here is the point: all saints will be full of joy and you can't be fuller than full.
God's generosity will overwhelm any sense of correlation between what we have done on earth and any reward in Heaven.
Perhaps the most important line in the Bible about reward is found in the book of Revelation where it says the saints will "lay their crowns before the throne."
If there are crowns, they will leave no trace on the heads of the ones who have handed them back to God.
It's all grace.
Amen, and amen. Good stuff.