Thursday, July 29, 2010

Storing Up Treasure in Heaven

I received an email a few days ago from a student unfortunate enough to take a college class from me last spring. My young friend has apparently had a difficult summer and wrote to me looking for some direction. Here’s the letter:
Hey Ray,
I've been struggling with something lately and I was wondering if maybe you could help (I need some insight).
I've definitely noticed this summer how in this life, money is everything (so says the world). If you don’t have it, you aren't worth anything and you can’t do very much without it. I think this has got me down, I am kinda questioning my worth as a person. 
I know there’s a verse that says to 'store up riches in heaven'. But I don’t know what these riches are and how to 'store them up.’ I know that I my soul is worth the price of Christ dying on the cross but I don't feel worth anything.
I just don’t know what things are of actual worth in life (heavenly worth).
Here’s my response (even now, as I read it a few days later, I realize there is so much more to be said):
I trust your summer hasn’t been a total struggle, but I definitely hear you when you say that money really runs the show these days. It can be depressing. I took a day to think about how to answer you. Here’s my first try. If you have any questions or thoughts, please write back and let me know.

When Jesus said “store up riches in heaven” he was contrasting temporary things with permanent things. Yes, he was talking about heaven-after-you-die, but he was also trying to reveal that the permanent things are all around us here and now. The kingdom of God places great value on these permanent things. They are the kind of things that do not wear out and cannot be stolen from you. You can begin to “invest” in them now, and your investment goes with you wherever to go.

So what are these permanent things, and how do we store up these treasures? Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by talking about the kind of people who are fortunate in God’s eyes. That is, the kingdom of God values the poor, the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers. If you want to store up treasures in heaven, you can find them among the poor. You can find them by showing mercy to others. You can become rich in God’s kingdom by becoming the kind of person who makes peace. Every act of mercy and kindness (especially to those who cannot “repay” you) is like making a deposit in the kingdom of God. Remember: Jesus told us that the kingdom is breaking into the here and now--it’s not just about heaven after you die.

Another way to store up these kingdom treasures is to see who you really are--a child of God! Worldly people draw their identity from their stuff: the label on their clothes, the cars they drive, the houses they build. Did you know that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses the phrase ‘your Father in heaven” more than a dozen times? People who do not know their Father work hard to develop their own image. Children of God receive the family likeness that comes from God. It’s not about about working to become godly, it’s more like growing up and realizing that your Father is capable of providing everything you need: love, security, identity, food, clothing, and a home. I’m sure you’ve seen people who crave love and security: they’ll do anything to feel accepted--spend money, offer their bodies, pretend to be someone who they are not. Part of storing up treasures in heaven is to embrace the family identity, because you will receive the family inheritance.

Finally, investing in God’s kingdom is like any other kind of investing. In the everyday world we invest in things with our time, energy or money. It may not sound spiritual, but we invest in the Kingdom of God the same way: with our time, energy, and money. Do we give ourselves to the Kingdom of God? Jesus said it is the best investment: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

There are a thousand practical applications to this stuff. Each life lived before God can fulfill the charge “store up treasures in heaven” and still look like a unique life. God doesn’t make cookie cutter children. I encourage you to take some quiet time and think through what your life could look like in the kingdom of God.

Finally, I’m happy talk more, if this note spurs any questions or ideas.

Grace to you, and peace,

How would you have responded? What would you tell someone about “storing up treasure in heaven?” I look forward to your comments.

1 comment:

  1. For me "storing up treasure" starts with finding the family of God where you live. Then just living in the family becomes a down payment towards greater investment in the kingdom. Even when my heart is not fully invested, brothers and sisters make the payments for me. Their investment in me produces treasure for all involved and this makes it easier to invest myself. Psalm 68 "God sets the lonely in families". I know that this is the doorway in to the riches of the kingdom because I have experienced it myself.