Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal.
Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are.
[With these words Jesus continues to teach about the Law of Moses as the Sermon on the Mount continues. He takes some of the most important topics and explains to his disciples, in specific terms, what it means to be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires” (See Day 23)].
I’ve heard this scripture taught as though we should spend our lives racking up points so we can get into heaven. The image that comes to my mind is those old S&H green stamps books. Fill up you book and you can redeem it for a television, or in this case – heaven. A more timely image might be frequent flier rewards – rack up enough miles and get a free trip into heaven.
Jesus was a Jew, and while Jews do indeed believe in heaven, they don’t fixate on it like many of today’s Christians do. They believe that God wants them experience the fullness of life here on earth. So taking this into consideration I think the riches on earth that Jesus refers to are the tangible, material items we accumulate here and now. I think the riches in heaven are the intangibles, like memories and good will, that we create and save in our hearts.
The material things of this world are possessions – money, real estate, investments, cars, clothes, furniture, etc. It takes a lot of time and effort to obtain and manage them. There’s a false sense of security about them because you can always see them and touch them and you know right where they are located. The only problem is that these things can vanish in an instant. Like the scripture says, they wear out and get stolen. Or get lost in foreclose or bankruptcy, or destroyed by fire or flood.
In contrast, the riches you store in heaven are the life experiences that feed your soul. They are the things that make your spirit soar. They are the kind things that you do that resonate in the heavens and in other people’s hearts and minds. They are the things that make great memories – like special friendships, adventures, good times with family and friends, acts of kindness, beautiful sights, moments of intimacy, laughter, healing, miracles, hugs, the blessings of both giving and receiving. These are just a sampling of the kinds of things that are accumulated in the spiritual realm as we live our lives. They are real, but you can’t touch them – it’s as though they are data out there in spiritual cyberspace and you can access them whenever you want. No matter what happens in your life – even if you lose you material possessions, or your health, or your loved ones – no one can take these intangible treasures away from you. They belong to you, and they will be the things that really matter as your life draws to a close. And while I’m positive that when I die I won’t be able to take my house, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to carry those memories of my time here on earth with me into heaven. The positive things I’ve done and the good times I’ve shared with others will continue to resonate in the spirits of others here on earth.
There was a man that I had to lay off at work and he was really angry about it. A few years later he got brain cancer. Shortly before he died he came in to work to see me and tell me how appreciative he was that we laid him off. He was grateful because the layoff allowed him to enjoy a few years of the laid back retirement lifestyle before he got sick. He said that if he’d worked until retirement he never would have known how wonderful it is not to have to go to work every day. I guess he was happy that he had time to store up a few more riches in heaven before leaving the earth.
I once heard an elder of the church give a testimony about how her goal is to be so close to God in this life that when her time comes to cross over into heaven the transition would just be a tiny imperceptible shift instead of a big abrupt leap. She wants to be sure her heart is already in heaven before her body fails her. She doesn’t want any part of her heart left back here on earth clinging to things that are both tangible and temporary. Her heart and her treasure are already in heaven.
After I got laid off from my job of 31 years I had a decision to make. Should I apply for jobs in downtown Chicago and spend the next 10 to 15 years working and commuting? Or should I call it a day and retire? It wasn’t an easy decision because I didn’t have the million dollars they say you need to retire early these days (but does any ordinary person ever accumulate that much money???). My husband was a retired pastor so he was home all day. After a few weeks off it became clear that I didn’t want to work anymore. I wanted to sleep late on winter mornings, take long walks with my husband and dogs, celebrate the first snowfall in front of a warm fire, eat lunch outdoors in the springtime, make more music, do volunteer work, set my own schedule, spend time with family, have long conversations with friends, pray more, take beautiful pictures, do a blog, things like that. I decided that time together with my husband was a lot more important than the false sense of security I might get by having more money in the bank. I realized that even if I forced my body to the confinement of that office and commuter train, my heart would always be back at home with my husband and my cute little dogs. My heart would always be longing to do all the things that I couldn’t do if I worked. So I followed my heart.
Time spent storing up riches in heaven……Priceless!!
What does this scripture say to you?