I didn’t have much time this week to work on the digger deeper post. So, I decided to go a totally different direction this week. I decided to talk about treasure in heaven. I had written on this previously for a Bible study that I was leading. The category I put for this is Christian living. I hope to do more of these type of post in the future.
What does storing up treasures in heaven look like? Colossians 3 says: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Storing up treasures in heaven is a subject that I have thought about quite a bit. I agree with it wholeheartedly in my head, but my heart is so slow to follow. I will give a long John Piper quote because I feel that this is such an important topic. Piper says: “Today I want to simply focus for a few more minutes on the meaning of “Lay up treasures in heaven.” What does this mean? Are you doing it? Jesus says to do it. Are we?
Up to a point the text is plain, isn’t it? Verse 19: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Evidently there are two ways to live: you can live with a view to accumulating valuable things on earth, or you can live with a view to accumulating valuable things in heaven. Jesus says: the mark of a Christian is that his eyes are on heaven and he measures all his behavior by what effect it will have on heaven – everlasting joy with God.
And something else is clear: laying up treasures in heaven and laying up treasures on earth are not good bedfellows. You have to choose between them. You can’t say, “Well how about both?” That’s the point of verse 24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
There is something about God and money that makes them tend to mastery. Either you are mastered by money and therefore ignore God or make him a bellhop for your business, or you are mastered by God and make money a servant of the kingdom. But if either tries to master you while you are mastered by the other you will hate and despise it. This is why Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Much money makes a cruel master.
But let’s be more specific. If Jesus means “devote your life to accumulating treasure in heaven” – which I take to mean increasing your joy in God in heaven – what is the main thing he has in mind that we should do now? My judgment from the context would be that it is giving rather than accumulating. If laying up treasures in heaven is the opposite of laying up treasures on earth, then probably laying up treasures in heaven will be NOT laying up treasures on earth but giving them away in ways that magnify the worth of Jesus.
There are several other teachings of Jesus that confirm this meaning: laying up treasures in heaven is giving money away for Christ’s sake rather than accumulating it. For example, consider Luke 12:32-33, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”
Here Jesus explains how you “provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old” and how you “provide yourselves with treasure in the heavens that does not fail,” namely, “Sell your possessions and give to the needy.” That’s how you do it.
In other words, possessions on earth are not for accumulating, they are for distributing in ways that Christ is honored and our joy in heaven is increased (see Ephesians 4:23). When we give – especially when we give so generously that we have to sell something to have anything to give – we show that Christ is our treasure and that we love others more than we love our own security and comfort.
You can see the same thing in Luke 14:13-14 where Jesus tells us to give to those who can’t pay us back. Why? Jesus answers, “You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” In other words, when you give freely and generously because you trust Jesus to take care of you, you are laying up treasures in heaven. You will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just. Randy Alcorn, in that little book, The Treasure Principle, says, “I’m convinced that the greatest deterrent to giving is this: the illusion that earth is our home” (p. 44; see Colossians 3:1-3). It’s not; Christ is our home. And therefore to live is Christ and to die is gain. And it will be all the more gain as we learn to lay up treasures in heaven by giving.”
Piper adds elsewhere: “Don’t miss this utterly radical point. It’s the way Jesus thinks and talks all the time. Being heavenly-minded makes a radically loving difference in this world. The people who are most powerfully persuaded that what matters is treasure in heaven, not big accumulations of money here, are the people who will constantly dream of ways to simplify and serve, simplify and serve, simplify and serve. They will give and give and give. And of course they will work and work and work, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:28, “so that [they] may have something to share with those in need.” The connection with worship is this: Jesus commands us to accumulate treasure in heaven, that is, to maximize our joy in God. He says that the way to do this is to sell and simplify for the sake of others. So he motivates simplicity and service by our desire to maximize our joy in God. Which means that all of our use of money becomes a manifestation of how much we delight in God above money and things. And that is worship.”
An Increased Capacity to Enjoy God
When I was a kid I had teachers say that treasure in heaven was our crowns that we would receive and then place them back at the feet of Jesus. This is taken from Revelation chapter 4 which says: “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Jonathan Edwards taught that treasure in heaven would involve an increased capacity to enjoy God. Edwards said: “Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven, but perfect love shall reign throughout the whole society.”
To finish this off let me quote from a book by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeny called Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell: “Though we might instinctively think that every Christian will occupy the same position in heaven, Edwards argued that it was not so. He grounded his argument in Scripture: “God has abundantly promised to reward good works of the saints in another world. Christ has said that if we do but give a cup (of cold water only, we shall in no wise lose our reward). But how can this be, if it be so that whether they do more good works or fewer, all that have just the same reward? When a person has a good work before him to be done, how can he say with himself to encourage himself to do, “If I do it, I shall be rewarded for it; I shall in no case lose my reward”; if at the same time it be true that he shall have as great a reward, if he lets it alone as if he does it; and he shall have as much future happiness, if he does few good works as many? There can be no such thing as any reward at all for good works, unless they are rewarded with some additional degree of happiness. If nothing be added, then there is nothing gained.”
Living with heavenly rewards in mind was not an option, as Edwards found in his study of the Word. It was: “A duty expressly commanded. Matthew 6:19-20, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” By laying up treasure in heaven is not only meant obtain some inheritance there, but to be adding to it; as is evident by the comparison made between this and what is forbidden, laying up treasure on earth. By which Christ doesn’t mean that we should get nothing in this world, but not do as worldly-minded men do, be striving insatiably to hoard up, and keep adding to our worldly good things; but rather strive to add to our inheritance in heaven, and heap up treasure there; labor daily to increase our interest there by doing good works, and abounding in them; as appears by Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”
“Edwards’s argument matches the plain teaching of Scripture. The way we live on this earth affects our heavenly status. The more that we live for the Lord with the little time that we have here, the more He will reward us in the life to come. Day-to-day life, with moment-by-moment, even second-by-second decisions, counts. It is not all a wash, or all the same to God. The thoughts we think, the programs we choose to watch, the evangelistic conversation we try to have, the cup of cold water we give in the name of Christ, the word of correction we offer a straying believer, the prayer we say as we hurry to work—all of this matters to God. All of it impacts, in a way we do not fully understand now, our eternal standing in heaven.
We do not know exactly how things will shake out. It may very well be that leaders we admire now must take a back seat to saints we have never heard of in heaven. Our earthly calculus for heavenly standing may prove wrong altogether. We do not know, in the end, where the Lord will seat us in His gallery of worship. We do know, however, that the life we live on this earth matters. Every second of our earthly existence counts.”
Oh, that we would live our lives in light of eternity, and live our lives for the Lord with the little time that we have here!