Your Father is not stingy, but generous. He wants to give you the kingdom. If you are his, “all things are yours, whether . . . the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23). How insane of us, when we are confronted with a real, pressing need, to cling to a few hundred dollars or a few unexpected hours while God holds out everything to us in Christ? He literally will withhold nothing. Ambitious generosity grows in the imaginations and pockets of those awed by the generosity of God. Meditate on all that God will give you. You will never be able to count or quantify what he has promised.
If we do not learn how to lay up treasures in heaven, we will inevitably settle for the treasures of earth — and miss out on something far more lasting and satisfying.
When we hear, “Lay up treasures in heaven,” it might sound like, “Make sure you put some money away in your 401(k).” “Prioritize long-term financial security over short-term gains and purchases.” Jesus, however, is not selling life insurance or dealing retirement plans here. Investing in heaven does not mean forfeiting present happiness. It means relocating and deepening our happiness — now and in eternity.
Whenever we make earthly sacrifices in the process, Jesus says,
Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29–30)
Any investment we make in heaven at the expense of some experience on earth will be handsomely rewarded now in this time — and in the age to come. A hundredfold now in this time. Do you believe God will do that when you give what you have away?
Again, Jesus says, “It is more blessed” — now, today, in this moment — “to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When we lay up treasures in heaven, we are not hedging for the future; we are seizing blessing now and in the future. The happiest people in the world are not those who spend and buy for themselves — we see this over and over again in the headlines of our consumer society — but those who spend and give for the good of others.
Pursuing happiness in this way, however, will make us aliens in a world of buyers, spenders, and savers. Those who have stored their treasures in heaven will confuse, and likely offend, those clinging to what they have here on earth.
What Have You Been Given?
Our treasure, here and elsewhere in Scripture, is whatever we earn or acquire for ourselves with what we’ve been given by God. What do we spend our money, time, and energy to have?
So, first, what has God given you? Well, everything you have. “What do you have that you did not receive?” the apostle Paul asks. “If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We far too easily begin taking the gifts of God for granted until we eventually start taking credit for them. Faithful stewardship begins with a conviction that all we have, we have been given (James 1:17), and that all we have been given, we have been given in order to make much of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
So, again, what has God given you? He “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). First, he has given you life, a breathtaking and immeasurable gift with enormous potential. Assuming you survive the day, God will have given you another 20,000 breaths. And, if he wills, he will give you another 20,000 tomorrow. What will you spend those breaths to have?
God has given you life and breath and everything. If you have it, God gave it. Every dime in every paycheck. Every square inch of your home. Every piece of cotton in your closet. Every last cent in your savings. And one day, we will each give an account for how we spent and used all we had — and most of us, especially in the West, have been given much. What will our much have purchased? What will our much say about what we really treasured and pursued? Will our much suggest that we lived for heaven on earth, or that we quietly wished heaven would let us have a few more years here first?
Remember the Poor
What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven? It means to give all we can on earth for the good of others in the name of Jesus. Jesus says,
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. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:33–34)
Do you want a treasure that never fails? Do you want financial accounts that never atrophy? Do you want a security, freedom, and pleasure that swells and spreads long after you have died? Then sell what you have to give to those who have not. Jesus says elsewhere to one wealthy young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). We cannot begin to lay up treasure in heaven if we’re not ready to sacrifice our earthly treasures for those in need.