Acquisition is a basic human concept, we’re born with the desire to get, to receive, and to have. Depending on the circumstances, this completely natural tendency can spark wars or inspire remarkable displays of altruistic service and generosity.
Curiously, the topic of treasure in heaven popped up several times in recent conversations. The one that inspired this post was with my aunt. Most folks think that Jesus’s call to store up treasure in heaven teaches the futility of maniacally pursuing material goods or esteem.
In other words, “You can’t take it with you.”
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry?
That either means party hearty today because no one leaves this world with a doggie bag, or that the Haves must swallow the bitter truth that material goods can’t follow them into eternity. Have Nots don’t feel quite as badly, thinking they’re in good shape simply because they have few worldly goods.
No one ever has, or ever will, party more heartily or accumulate more goods and esteem than King Solomon. He literally had it all and did it all, standing alone as the king of the “Been there, done that” hill. The guy in second place is so far behind Solomon that no one remembers his name.
I suspect that’s the application my aunt thinks of first. But there’s another.
Maybe the have nots shouldn’t high-five one another just yet. The absence of earthly wealth or acclaim doesn’t mean you automatically have treasure in heaven. For some, all it means is they failed to answer the door when opportunity knocked.
Good News for the Overlooked or Under-Appreciated
My aunt told me a story about amazing work my uncle did without getting the credit. He understood that sometimes you must choose between getting the right result or being acknowledged for it. My uncle praised others more than they deserved, letting his own work go unrecognized to keep things moving in the right direction.
Squeaky wheels usually get the grease, but they seldom come up with brilliant ideas or work overtime to finish a job.
I learned that lesson in politics and jury duty. I dare say it might be a truism, generalizing well in most societies and undertakings. Some folks do, others crow. All that matters is whether an egg was laid. Roosters are mouthy, but I’ve yet to hear of one producing something I could scramble.
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Doing good things without reward must be an important point because Jesus repeated it two verses later.
But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. – Matthew 6:3
“He didn’t get a trophy until after he died.”
My aunt was saddened that my uncle never got to see a particular civic award he richly deserved because it wasn’t given until after he passed away.
“He didn’t get the trophy until after he died.”
Her remark carried notes of sadness, frustration, and perhaps a dash of resentment. Her sentiment was honest, human, and hardly unexpected. When it came to my uncle, failure to be appreciated was the norm.
To which I replied, “Hallelujah!”
Unable to see her face over the phone, I don’t know if her expression changed, so I expanded on what I realized was an unexpected comment.
“If Lawrence received a trophy here, he wouldn’t be getting one from the Father, because the books would already be balanced. How wonderful that the trophy he accepts will be presented by God Himself.”
Mind you, I recognize the need for good deeds. Generosity of spirit and wallet are necessary to feed the poor, care for the elderly, educate abandoned children, and make the injured whole through charitable service and giving. Philanthropy will be mentioned on the day we stand before God, but what gets mentioned, and to whom, may be a shock.
Worldy Esteem Won’t Make the Trip to Heaven
Material goods can’t transfer from mortality to immortality. It’s true that you can’t physical wealth with you, nor can you pack and ship worldly esteem. The $32 million dollars given to build a university building is a debt paid in full if the donor receives public recognition and his or her name emblazoned on the front. The Father’s list of treasures and rewards won’t reflect the $32 mil. It may be as if it never happened.
Buying a table at a charitable function, getting VIP access to speakers, free cocktails, your name in the program and public recognition is payment in full. I hope no one expects to hear “Well done” for writing that tax-deductible check. Your generosity is wonderful and deserves recognition, the only issue is who it comes from.
Anonymous donors want good outcomes, not credit for making them possible. In many ways, my uncle was an anonymous donor. He contributed mightily by committing time, talent, and elbow grease to many projects benefitting others. But he didn’t get the credit.
The Treasure You Can Take To Heaven
My uncle will receive acknowledgment. It’s coming.
Every Christ-follower anticipating his or her appearance before the King of Kings hopes to receive more reward than censure. What you can take to heaven is the knowledge that there is a trophy, crown, and recognition waiting for what wasn’t appreciated in the mortal realm.
What treasures have you stored up in heaven? I doubt you know. I believe the best rewards God bestows will be for things you weren’t aware you did.
Helping the elderly lady at Walmart get her packages safely to her car in the snow.
Setting an example for your children that continues to guide, inspire, and protect them. Especially your behavior as a child of God, praying for strangers, buying lunch for first responders, honoring quiet time with your Lord, and saving your best manners for your spouse.
Standing up for the odd little kid during recess when you were six-years-old. Others teased, but you took her hand and offered to play.
Anonymity is a Biblical Concept
Whether in prayer or philanthropic endeavor, if you want to receive recognition from God, don’t seek it here. Save it for later.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” – Matthew 6:5-6
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
Where is your heart?
Shared with permission from my aunt.