~ Heavenly Treasures Are For Now ~
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20a, NIV).
Our post-modern minds see in Jesus' words an analogy that was not possible to people of that time. Is the storehouse in heaven like a financial deposit in a secure, high interest yield account that cannot be withdrawn without penalty? Is it like an afterlife retirement account waiting for you upon arrival in heaven?
Doubt it. In heaven there is no sense of something being "mine." The "crowns" of spiritual reward St. Paul writes about won't be proudly worn, for there is no pride in heaven. Instead, these crowns will be offered to God in gratitude and homage (Revelation 4:10b). The treasure of God's full Presence and permeating Glory, negating any need for the sun, will be infinitely satisfying. So what is Jesus saying?
St. Paul's personal testimonies
point to the meaning of such treasure. As Christ's "independent agent,"
Paul had no apostalically ordained authority (Galatians 1:16-19) and received
his spiritual knowledge through direct revelation. "Now the Bereans were
of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message
with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what
Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11, NIV).
This is not to cast any shadows on Paul's work. We, like the Bereans, should diligently check every spiritual leader's teachings against scriptural authority.
However, the church at Corinth did challenge Paul's authority as a servant of Christ. In defense of his credentials, he writes, "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely and been exposed to death again and again" ( 2 Corinthians 11:23, NIV). Paul continues to list, in detail, his sacrifices and persecutions. In his following paragraphs, Paul describes a vision of the third heaven where was heard "inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell" (12:4). Interspersed throughout are frequent mentions of his weakness, which he boasts about as his trophy. Paul writes, "This is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties" (12:10). Are these the credentials of a servant of Christ? The treasures stored in heaven that cannot be stolen or corrupted?
Paul was university educated. He was a Hebrew with Roman citizenship. As a Pharisee, Paul was an expert in the Scriptures, as well as Grecian culture and literature. His conversion experience was among the most dramatic among the servants of Christ throughout all history. These would be prominently listed on the resumes of preachers: Expertise, education, personal encounters with Christ on earth and heaven. Instead, Paul featured his weaknesses and wounds.
What is not frequently included with Christ's statement about heavenly storage when quoted is His punch line: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21, NIV). If your treasures are stored in heaven, and your heart follows, the treasures are accessible to your heart.
Regarding the heart of Moses, "He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt" (Hebrews 11:26, NIV). This echoes Paul, yet Jesus explained "every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (Matthew 13:52, NIV).
Paul again about his physical
qualifications: "We don't place any confidence in physical things, although
I could have confidence in my physical qualifications. If anyone else thinks
that he can trust in something physical, I can claim even more…These things
that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ"
(Philippians 3:3b-4, 7, GW). Writing to Timothy, Paul asserts, "Instead, they should place their confidence in God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. Tell them to do good, to do a lot of good things, to be generous and to share. By doing this they store up a treasure for themselves which is a good foundation for the future. In this way they take hold of what life really is" (1 Timothy 6:17b-19, GW).
So Jesus' statement concerning "instruction in the kingdom of heaven" is reflected in Paul's comment to the church in Colosse: "Because they are united in love, I work so that they may be encouraged by all the riches that come from a complete understanding of Christ. He is the mystery of God. God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ" (Colossians 2:2-3, GW).
Yet Paul writes elsewhere that "Our bodies are made of clay, yet we have the treasure of the Good News in them. This shows that the superior power of this treasure belongs to God and doesn't come from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7, GW).
Weakness, hardship, disgrace, confidence in God, understanding of Christ, wisdom, bodies and hearts, enjoyment and sharing, all connect in this treasure hunt. Isaiah, the prophet, adds more content to the heavenly treasure storage: "The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion [the heavens] with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge" (Isaiah 33:5-6a, NIV). The "He" to whom Isaiah refers is "the stump of Jesse," the father of King David and the Messianic line. "The Spirit of the Lord [Yaweh] will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord - and he will delight in the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2-3, NIV). Isaiah says this fear of the Lord "is the key to this treasure" (33:6b). And Jesus did delight in the holy, reverential fear of Yaweh for He announced "I always do what pleases him" (John 8:29b). "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalms 37:4, NIV).
So we run full circle back to the heart. The desires of the heart of Christ are the desires of His Father's heart. To be truly Christian means to cherish the heart of Christ living in you. The treasures of His heart include the joy of redemptive suffering: "I am happy to suffer for you now. In my body I am completing whatever remains of Christ's sufferings. I am doing this on behalf of his body, the church" (Colossians 1:24, GW). It includes the Good News of the mystery of Christ, infused from Christ's heart into ours through suffering, self-abandonment, revelation, prayer, mystical union and the embrace of agape love. And this is wisdom and salvation.
These are indestructible treasures stored securely in the heavenly realm. They are to be used here, on earth, now. Delighting ourselves in the Lord is delighting ourselves in these treasures and that is receiving the desires of our hearts - which is the same as the desires of the heart of Christ, infused in ours.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © March 16, 2002
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