Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19–21)
Why does Jesus tell us to seek treasure in heaven? Isn’t it a bit selfish to do good if we’re just doing it to build up capital in some eternal bank account? For years, I felt uncomfortable with Jesus’ command to seek rewards, crowns, and treasure. I knew heavenly treasure had to be a good thing, but I tried to keep my focus on seeking the kingdom because it was the right thing to do. I remember when a friend said he didn’t know what getting crowns in heaven meant, but we were just going to throw them at Jesus’ feet anyway, so he wasn’t going to worry about it. Relieved, I put the idea of heavenly treasure on the shelf, trusting God would work it all out in the long run.
Now, when you don’t understand something in the Bible, trusting God to work it all out in the end is not a bad response! But I’ve come to realize that I was missing something important—something Jesus emphasized for a reason. God’s promise of heavenly treasure is not a concession for our selfishness. Instead, it is the key to connecting his command to love our neighbor with a growing hunger for heaven!
The connection is this: God himself will be our joy and delight in heaven, which means we will truly, and without the limitations of our sinfulness, treasure what God treasures there. And what does he treasure? We could give many answers—his glory might be the best summary answer—but Ephesians 1:18 offers something surprising: we are his treasure, we are his rich and glorious inheritance! Now, if we are made to treasure what God treasures—and what he treasures is his redeemed children—then there is one inescapable conclusion we must draw:
Your brothers and sisters in Christ are one of your heavenly treasures.
Because they are the riches of Christ’s inheritance, your brothers and sisters in Christ are a glorious testimony to his saving grace, a stupefying jewel in his holy crown, set there by the unsearchable depths of his mercy.
Why This Matters
Why does this matter? It matters because the call to seek heavenly treasure is connected to the call to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12–13)
When we see our spiritual siblings as our treasure, we suddenly find enormous incentive to invest in their good. When friends in your small group or a challenging spouse or a coworker are your treasure for all eternity, stepping into trials with them to support and encourage them in seeking Christ is an opportunity, not a chore. Loving your neighbor becomes a chance to develop, polish, and invest in something that will still be a delight to you in ten thousand years! There is enormous power in the realization that every person who becomes more like Christ, in even the slightest way because of you, will be part of your treasure in heaven.
This reality has touched down in two areas for me recently. First, it’s shaped how I think about parenting. I confess that far too often I lose sight of parenting as a gift and precious calling to raise my kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I get impatient and distracted, and I can treat my kids more like an inconvenience than a privilege, much less a treasure. But I’m slowly waking up to the staggering promise Jesus gives that every cup of cold water given in his name brings a reward that cannot be lost—and that little reward is sitting right in front of me (Matt 10:42). This helps me be patient with my children’s sin and sass, knowing both discipline and mercy are cultivating fruit that will be a blessing infinitely longer than the frustration of the moment. Anything that makes heavenly treasure out of helping a four-year-old clean her mom’s stolen lip gloss off the wall is too important to miss.
Second, it’s changing my small talk. I suspect I’m like most people and don’t enjoy small talk. It often seems like people keep conversations going to avoid awkwardness while they search for the opportune moment to politely escape each other. This mentality is folly when I’m across from someone in whom I have a stake, in whose Christlikeness I have a vested interest! This doesn’t mean every thirty-second interaction in the hall after church has to become a counseling session, or that I can’t politely exit a conversation and move on. It does mean I’m learning to see even a thirty-second connection as a foretaste of heaven, where I get a sample of the feast God is preparing that will someday bring me to awestruck worship. It means the kindness, concern, love, prayer, and compassion we give in thirty seconds will make a difference that endures for eternity.
When your brother and your sister are your treasure, no act of love is lost. Indeed, you will surely not lose your reward, for your reward is the very brother or sister you are serving.
Making It Personal
Let me suggest three ways you might put this perspective to work in your own life. First, when you pray for someone to grow in Christ, you have the certain hope that every time you ask for anything on behalf of another, God will either say “yes” or do something even better in response. What comfort that he answers our prayers in ways beyond what we even know to ask. Prayer, then, is a way to pour spiritual riches into another person’s life, and those riches in that person will be your heavenly reward!
Second, you add to your heavenly treasure by encouraging others. Name the good things you see, the work of God’s Spirit, and the gifts he has given. Encouragement helps someone gain clarity about how to pursue Christlikeness in his or her life and provides motivation to press deeper into the good work God is already doing.
My third application may surprise you—it’s confession of sin. How does your confession build treasure in others? Confession augments the riches of God’s inheritance in another person listening to you, because every time you confess your sin to brothers or sisters, you give them a front row seat to the power of the gospel. Every time you name your failings of will and deed, you affirm the power of God to forgive and redeem. You demonstrate the trustworthiness of the gospel by leaning on it with all your weight, risking certain ruin if Jesus doesn’t catch you. I have seen time and again in my life how the culture of openness about sin and struggle in the church I attended growing up taught me that sin was a terrible problem, but that it was no match for grace. When you take the gospel seriously enough to confess your sin before another Christian, you invite someone else to taste and see that the mercy of the Lord is good.
The point of recognizing our treasure in each other is not to pat ourselves on the back, or to take the focus off of God’s glory. Rather, I hope we will be energized to love Christ and his people more and more as we realize how generous he is to share the riches of his inheritance in his saints with us. How great is the love of the Father for us that he would choose to make us heirs of his eternal kingdom with Christ and invite us to the banquet his Spirit is laying out. May Jesus’ promise of reward make us hunger and thirst to see our brothers and sisters mature into full fruitfulness.
This article was originally published in CCEF’s annual magazine, CCEF NOW. Read it here.