“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, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21, NASB95)
There are many sayings which I have heard over the years concerning the issue of not being able to take things with us when we die. They include ones such as “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die,” “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul,” and “naked you came into this world and naked you will leave.” All of these point to a sense of the limited nature of things which we might enjoy or chase after while we live. They point to the futility of storing up things just for the sake of gaining them. Sure, there is the thought of “leaving something for the grandkids,” but sometimes this comes at the expense of having a relationship with them now. The bottom line is that all of these treasures are temporary at best.
I’ve been going through the process of sorting through things in our garage and deciding what is useful or worth keeping and what is not. In the process I’ve found years of stuff that was stored away and subject to “mousing” and because of this has lost all of its value. In some ways this makes the sorting very easy. But as I stand back and look not only at our own collection of stuff and that of our kids, but also my parents’ stuff that wound up in our garage after their passing I can easily become overwhelmed by its sure volume. It is like a huge anchor, and seeking to be moveable I am tackling the task of hauling the anchor and trading it for one that is much smaller.
The amazing thing about all of the stuff is that it is not made up of things that we intentionally chased after, but rather it was things that we accumulated with life. It is that way with so many of the things we treasure. We may not see the pursuit until it shows itself as a looming mountain to be dealt with. As this is true in the physical realm it can also be true in the spiritual and emotional realm. We can chase after recognition and acceptance. We can chase after applause and appreciation. We can chase after promotion and adulation. We can chase after comfort and happiness. We can chase after choices and choosing. We can chase after so much, and in the process find that what we have treasured really doesn’t matter beyond the years of our lives.
Jesus had just finished speaking about a series of ways that people appear to be worshiping God, but in reality they were seeking their own approval by others. He calls them hypocrites or actors. They do it for what they receive in the here and now, and not for what will last. In conjunction with that He spoke of their reward which was received on the spot—a reward which faded when they left the spotlight.
Getting back to that concept of not being able to take things with you, we find in Scripture that this is not entirely true. Sure the boat and the wardrobe will not make the transition beyond this life, but there is something far better awaiting us. For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for their salvation, the Bible tells us that there indeed will be a time when we appear before Christ and we will be evaluated for what we have done here, and that which survives the evaluation will result in great reward. We may not be able to bring the cup of water that we gave another out of compassion, but we will be rewarded for giving that cup.
Jesus said of those surviving the Great Tribulation (Matthew 25:31-46) that He was going to separate the sheep from the goats in what some term as the judgment of the nations. The sheep would be put on His right and the goats on His left. As He declared to the sheep their eternal inheritance, He also spoke of how their great compassion evidenced their faith. And following this He sent the goats, whose deeds stood in stark contrast, away to the place prepared for the devil and his angels—the place of eternal fire. While this appears to only pertain to those alive at the end of the Great Tribulation it is instructional to us concerning those things that we do in this life that matter to God. Here is what Jesus said, “‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:35–39, NASB95)
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10, NASB95) What we do here does matter to God. Scripture makes this point very clear. It matters to God and He will reward us for what we have done in these bodies which He has given us, and it also matters to others. In Matthew 5:16 we are told by Jesus, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NASB95)
Memorial services are hard because they are often an intense time when people are focused on a recent loss in their lives of someone they hold dear. In their passing a hole is left into which emotions rush in, and these emotions can frequently be mixed and seemingly overwhelming at time. But when I go to (or even have the honoring of leading) a memorial service of a dear one of God’s who lived his or her life in the way that Jesus encouraged, then I also am encouraged by the impact that God had through them on those they touched. It is these people who are dearly loved and fondly remembered, and it is also these people who I am certain, from God’s Word, find that when the other stuff of their lives is burnt off that they will truly have a very rich reward from our Father in heaven.
In 1 Corinthians 3 we read, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:9–15, NASB95)
Jesus said to store up our treasures in heaven. I cannot imagine a greater reward than that which will be given by our God who created us, who sustains us and who by His great love brought us back into a relationship with Him as His grace has been lavished or smothered or abundantly poured upon us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:3–8a, NASB95)