This is the final chapter, so let’s think about the day when we’ll begin to benefit from our investments in heaven. That will be payday—a day when we surely won’t regret any earthly sacrifice that we made. In fact, we’re likely to regret that we didn’t make greater earthly sacrifices. On that day we will see the treasure we’ve laid up in heaven.
So when we arrive, will we be able to log on to our accounts at HeavenBank .com to check our current balances—balances that will be based on our earthly financial sacrifices? Will we be able to make withdrawals to purchase mansions at the corners of Diamond Road and Emerald Avenue, complete with three-chariot garages?
Those are interesting questions, and I wish I knew the answers. We do know that life in heaven (and ultimately on the new earth) will be similar in many ways to life as we know it now. Heaven will be populated with multitudes of people (Rev. 7:9). They will all have places to reside (see John 14:2-3). They’ll be able to walk and talk and enjoy heaven’s beauty. It will be a place full of activity. The Bible certainly doesn’t portray heaven as a place where people just sit around all day on clouds strumming golden harps.
Will there be learning? Creativity? I can’t imagine not. Work? Progress? How about ownership, labor and commerce? If so, will everyone work purely from joy, and will there be no incentive to gain something through our labors? Will there be some medium of exchange? I wish I knew the answers to all those questions.
Regardless, we know that Jesus told us that we can and should lay up treasure in heaven. That implies that those who do will have something waiting for them in heaven that they would not have had otherwise. What will it be? Does every dollar given away on earth add a gold coin to our safe deposit box at Heaven Bank?
I can’t resist mentioning a story that is told of a man whom Saint Peter saw dragging two large suitcases with him as he trudged toward the pearly gates. Upon his arrival, he breathlessly dropped the suitcases with a thud. Peter asks, “What’s in the suitcases?” The man replies, “Let me show you!” He opens them up to reveal to Peter that both are filled with gold coins and bars. Peter responds, “Pavement? You brought pieces of pavement?”
Of course, just because there are roads in the New Jerusalem that John described as being “pure gold, like transparent glass” (Rev. 21:21) doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of gold coins being used in heaven as a medium of exchange. There will be no thieves living in the New Jerusalem, and so no one who lives there will yield to the temptation to sneak out late at night to dig up some of the road (not to mention the fact that there will be no night there).
But back to my primary question: What exactly are the “treasures” that we lay up in heaven? What are the rewards for our obedient stewardship?
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t reveal as much as I wish it did, and perhaps because our rewards are beyond our current comprehension. Because of that, we’re just going to have to trust Jesus on this, which isn’t so bad. When someone loves you so much that He dies for you, you can trust that any rewards He promises are going to be good.
Of course, the Bible does speak of crowns that may be received, such as the “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8). Everyone who “loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8) will receive that crown, however, and I think it is safe to say that all true followers of Christ “loved His appearing.” Similarly, the “crown of life” will be given to all who persevere and love Jesus (see Jas. 1:12, Rev. 2:10). So neither of those two crowns seems to be reserved as special rewards. An “unfading crown of glory” is another one that is mentioned in the New Testament, and it apparently will be granted exclusively to good shepherds (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
We can certainly anticipate receiving praise from God for our sacrifices (see 1 Cor. 4:5). Hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful slave” (Matt. 25:21) will be a reward that will warm our hearts forever.
Scripture also seems to imply that God will reward us by granting us different positions of authority in Christ’s government. Jesus’ Parables of the Talents and of the Nobleman support this possibility (see Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27). In the Parable of the Nobleman, the two faithful servants are awarded authority over cities. And Scripture teaches that we will rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom (see 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26-27, 5:10, 20:6).
Even now, some future seats of authority in God’s kingdom are already reserved. Jesus said to the Twelve:
Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:28-29, emphasis added).
Isn’t it true that one consuming desire shared by all of Jesus’ genuine disciples is to be entrusted with more responsibility for His glory? Do not we all currently wish that our ministries were more fruitful? Perhaps the greater opportunities that we will be given to serve Him in His kingdom will fulfill those desires.
Apart from crowns, words of praise, and governmental positions, I suspect that there are still going to be some surprises for those who have laid up treasure in heaven. 1 Corinthians 2:9 comes to mind: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
When the Last Shall be First
Some have concluded—based upon their interpretation of Jesus’ Parable of the Laborers—that all of the redeemed will receive identical rewards in heaven. But we must not emphasize one scripture passage at the neglect of all the others. Because the Bible has only one Author, every verse must be harmonized with the other 31,000 verses. Let’s read the Parable of the Laborers closely:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, “You too go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing; and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You too go into the vineyard.”
And when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.” And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius. And when they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” Thus the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:1-16).
Was Jesus trying to teach us that, in the end, everyone will receive the same reward regardless of their labor or faithfulness? I do not believe so. Take note that, as the landowner rewarded each group of laborers, he took into consideration the opportunities that they were given to work. The one-hour laborers would gladly have worked a full day had they been given the opportunity. But they only had the opportunity to work one hour.
This teaches us that when God rewards us for our service, He will take into consideration the opportunities (and resources) that He entrusted to us. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). You can receive as much reward as the world’s greatest evangelist if you are just as faithful with the gifts and opportunities that God has granted to you. This principle was clearly illustrated in Scripture’s story of the widow who contributed just two small coins to the temple treasury:
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).
From God’s viewpoint, her tiny contribution was larger than those of the rich because He took into consideration her available resources. She gave all she had to live on. And for that reason, her heavenly reward for her small contribution would surpass the rewards the rich would receive for their large contributions. That is one reason why, at the judgment, “Many who are first will be last, and the last, first” (Mark 10:31).
Incidentally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is anything selfish about striving to be among those who are first. It is not as if there are a limited number of rewards for which we’re all competing. Our limitless God has unlimited rewards. It isn’t selfish to strive to be among the first because you don’t have to push anyone down to make it to the top. In fact, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” It is by serving that we become great.
The True Test
Jesus once told a story about a very foolish investor, a man who laid up his treasure in the wrong place:
The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?” And he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21).
Obviously, had the wealthy man been “rich toward God,” he would not have laid up “treasure for himself,” building bigger earthly barns where he could store his abundant crops. Had he been “rich toward God,” he would have considered the fact that his bumper crops were a blessing from God. Thus, he had responsibility to steward his blessing.
Did God bless him so that he could retire early and live a life of ease and luxury? Apparently not, since he was destined to die soon. Thus we can only conclude that God blessed him to be a blessing before he died. Had he laid up his treasure in heaven, God would not have considered him to be a fool, but very wise. But he was not “rich toward God.” That is, he really had no relationship with God, and it was proven by what he did with what God had entrusted to him.
Our stewardship is indeed a litmus test, if not the litmus test, of our relationship with God. Those who are heaven-bound act like they are heaven-bound. Those who are not acting like they are heaven-bound, but like the rich fool in Jesus’ story, are not heaven-bound.
Jesus couldn’t have made this clearer as He taught His disciples during His Sermon on the Mount, telling them:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon 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 or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:19-24).
Jesus was not contrasting committed Christians with uncommitted Christians. Rather, He was contrasting those who do and do not have a relationship with God—as revealed by where they are storing up their treasures.
Note that in Jesus’ contrast of two people, one person lays up treasure on earth because his heart is not in heaven. The other lays up treasure in heaven because that is where his heart is. One is full of darkness, that is, ignorance of the truth, while the other is full of light, that is, knowledge of the truth. One has a “bad eye,” a common Hebrew idiom for a “greedy heart” (see Prov. 28:22; Matt. 20:15), while the other has a “clear eye,” the opposite of the “bad eye,” thus signifying a non-greedy heart. One person’s god is money, and therefore God is not his God, as Jesus said that it is impossible to serve God and money. The other person’s master is God, as evidenced by the fact that money is not his master.
These two contrasted people are polar opposites.
Clearly, the person who is laying up his treasure on earth—the one whose heart is not in heaven but on earth, who is full of darkness, whose heart is greedy, and whose god is not God but money—is not a Christian. And for this reason, anyone who is not laying up treasure in heaven should be gravely concerned about his or her relationship with God.
Keep in mind that it is quite possible, if one has an abundance, to tithe and still lay up lots of earthly treasure. Remember that the Pharisees scrupulously tithed, but they were also lovers of money who were ultimately cast into hell (see Matt. 5:20; 23:15, 23, 33; Luke 16:14; 18:12).
In the final analysis, if we obey Jesus’ commandments in regard to our financial stewardship, it is a matter of faith. If we believe in Jesus then we’ll do what He says, and we’ll reap the benefit of His promises.
The Divine Program
Scripture promises that we will not only be rewarded in the next life for our earthly giving, but also in this life as well. Writing to the Corinthian believers about their promised offering for the suffering saints in Jerusalem, Paul declared:
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6).
But was he speaking only of reaping in heaven? No, Paul continued:
God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed… Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 9:8, 10-11).
Those who give can expect to receive “an abundance for every good deed,” a multiplication of their “seed for sowing,” and an enrichment that makes possible more “liberality.” Obviously, according to Paul, the blessing of reaping in this life is not so we can disobey God and lay up treasures on earth. Rather it is so we can sow more, and ultimately lay up more treasure in heaven. What a blessing! And this reveals that God is a very good investor himself, as He invests in those who prove to be good investments! He will help us become forever rich if we’ll just get with the program.
In summary, here are the seven principles for becoming forever rich:
1.) Your life is a journey to stand before Jesus, the Venture Capitalist before whom you will have to give an account for everything He’s loaned to you—your time, talents and treasures. That will be your most important day, so prepare for it every day of your life.
2.) You are among the world’s wealthy elite. So learn contentment and remember, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
3.) Debt can be good or bad for you. Eliminate all debt that is not likely to increase your earthly and heavenly wealth.
4.) Self-dispossess. Scale down in Disneyland in order to wisely transfer earthly assets to heaven.
5.) Live frugally. Live simply.
6.) Leverage your time, skills and resources intelligently for maximum gain. But don’t become a manure-shoveling maniac.
7.) Give intelligently. Give first to truly poor believers, the “least of these,” which is the means to laying up treasure in heaven. Remember that the best way to help those who can work is to give them opportunity to work, lifting themselves.
Your treasure is hidden in the field. Buy the field! Be forever rich!