He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Did Paul just say that God will "render" (also translated "reward," "pay," "give") according to our works? What about sola fida, by faith alone? But you have to keep reading...
Yes, we are rewarded by our works, but not by the work itself, but by the motivation behind that work. Those whose works seek to honor and glorify God get eternal life. Those who are self-seeking and obey unrighteousness, get wrath and fury.
My mind immediately goes to the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. (Luke 18:9-14) Both men prayed. Prayer is good, so does this mean that both men get rewarded the same? Jesus says no. The Pharisee's prayer was self-seeking and unrighteous. He was praying to God, but he was also prayig to the audience at hand, and his prayer only sought to glorify himself. Reward: He was not justified. The tax-collector, who wouldn't even look up, who was not playing to an audience, and simply asked for mercy, according to Jesus, was the one who went away justified. Both men prayed, both had the same work, but they were judged differently because of their motives.
It is the same thought that Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, where he says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Righteous living is not so much about what you do as why you do it. That is why some can count one day as holy, and others count everyday the same. The key is to be fully convinced (Romans 14), and do it to the Lord.
This blessing is not just in the eternal reward either, because the peace that comes as a result of this attitude is one that is given now. Like the peace that Paul felt while being in prison, fastened in stocks, that still enabled him to sing praises to God (Acts 16).
There is no peace in exaulting yourself. There is no honor in placing yourself at the top.