By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I’m a new Christian, and I have been reading in the Bible about the crowns, treasures, and rewards that Jesus will give to Christians who live God-honoring lives here on earth. Recently, I came across a passage where Jesus talked about storing up treasures in heaven. What exactly are the treasures in heaven He’s talking about? And how do I earn them?
Thank you, Ana
I took a survey of several thousand people, asking them your questions. I think you’ll relate to some of the answers I received:
“I don’t know what the treasures are—do they have something to do with the mansions Jesus promised for us?”
“I don’t get it. If our salvation doesn’t depend on ‘good works,’ why does Jesus tell us we have to earn something?”
“Don’t we get treasures if we do good things? Like every time I do something that the Bible tells me to do, that puts a ‘treasure’ in heaven?”
“Aren’t the ‘treasures’ just one of those parables? They’re not real?”
I understand the confusion! Yes, the treasures are part of a parable—a story Jesus told with simple examples to help us understand complex spiritual truth. But they’re also very literal, because they’re mentioned many other times in Scripture.
God’s Word also tells us exactly how to “store up” heavenly treasures while we’re here on earth, why earning them matters, and what they’ll eventually be used for in heaven. So, let’s dig in!
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1. What are “treasures in heaven”? How do you store them up?
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (12:33-34)
Jesus had just shared the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:14-21). The rich man had an abundant harvest, but rather than giving a portion to those in need or sharing with the community, he simply built bigger barns. He saved it all for himself, saying, “Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19).
God immediately called the rich man a fool, saying that he would die, and his wealth would go to waste. Jesus concluded, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
His solution? Give to the poor.
To make it simple, let’s suppose that you earn $1000 a month.
You follow good biblical economics. First, pay your 10% tithe to God. Then, you pay taxes to the government. You pay all your bills and essential living expenses. You are out of debt on all depreciating items. You save 10% or more for the future.
Then, at the end of the month, you have $100 left. There are only two things we can do with that $100. We can either store it in heaven—by giving to those in need or supporting ministries that accomplish Kingdom work—or we can store it on earth.
Jesus challenged the ‘rich young ruler” who came to ask how he could become one of His followers; “Go, sell everything you have give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow Me” (Mark 10:21).
Let’s continue searching Scripture together.
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2. Caring for the poor identifies us as God’s people. He often uses our compassion to draw people to Himself.
Jesus taught His disciples how to live on earth so that the world would see Him in them:
The love He’s talking about isn’t a nebulous emotion. It’s an action. It’s not only in our hearts; it’s in our hands. We show love by caring for one another—by meeting each other’s needs.
One of my favorite truths about sharing the gospel is, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
When people are hurting, struggling to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and medical care, they can’t think beyond the physical. Can you imagine sitting on the side of the street, not remembering when you last ate, when someone comes up to you and tries to start a deep conversation about spiritual things?
You can’t focus on anything but the rumble in your stomach. You don’t want or need to talk. You need a meal. Dr. Tony Evans said it well; “They don’t need your words! They need your refrigerator!”
But when we generously share what we have, meeting critical needs first, people are often willing to listen. They see and experience God’s love through us, and they’re drawn to Him.
One of the ways we “store treasures in heaven” is by loving others and introducing them to the Savior. We will see each one in heaven for eternity.
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3. Earthly riches come with no guarantee that they will last. Moth, rust, and thieves will eventually take it all.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Jesus is saying that your earthly wealth and possessions will fail. They’re temporary. No matter how hard we try to hang on to them, they won’t last.
In Jesus’ day, wealth existed primarily in three forms:
First, if you had several changes of garments, you were considered to be wealthy. But the moths could eat up your clothes. Today consider the moth of “style” which can eat up your clothes. They won’t last.
Food was another form of wealth in those days. If you had grain and oil stored up, then you were considered wealthy. But rust could eat it up. “Rust” is the translation of a Greek word which literally means “the eaters.” It could include rodents, insects or even bacteria. Rust can eat away your food. Think about all the food in your fridge that goes bad before you have a chance to eat it! It won’t last.
Money existed primarily in the form of gold and silver. There were no bank vaults, so people tried to hide it or bury it to keep it safe, but thieves could easily find it and take it away. Even with the banking system, our wealth in money is dependent on many outside factors, from inflation to stock market fluctuation to the global value of currency. It won’t last.
Even if you’re able to stockpile wealth here on earth, you won’t take it with you when you die. It won’t last.
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4. We cannot chase after both God and money. We have to make a choice.
Jesus divides all people into two categories: those whose goal is to store up treasures on earth and those whose goal is to store up treasure in heaven. He warns us,
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
But, of course, Jesus knew that we would attempt to pursue both goals, didn’t He? He knew that all generations—even His trusted followers—would attempt to gather wealth for themselves AND please God or “do the right thing” by giving to those in need.
Notice what Jesus didn’t say: “It’s inadvisable to serve two masters … unwise … difficult.”
He said, “It is impossible!” We can’t do the impossible. No man can serve two masters, so we must make a choice between the two.
I am convinced that the typical 21st-century Christian is attempting to do the impossible.
The typical Christian will swear his allegiance to Jesus Christ outwardly. Make no mistake about it. He or she will identify with the church in its mission and ministries, be faithful to the church, teach Sunday School class, give to missions, etc.
But inwardly, he or she clings to the love of things. His or her heart is torn in allegiance between two masters.
No matter how faithful we look on the outside, God knows our hearts.
5. Just because we choose to follow Jesus doesn’t mean that our thinking is straightened out on this subject.
Unless we have made a conscious choice—asking the Holy Spirit to guide us—to think biblically about material things, we will fall right into the trap of materialism. It’s part of our sinful humanness, and it takes God’s work in our lives to change our priorities.
We will naturally swear allegiance to Jesus, but we will still hold onto our things at all cost.
We want to be Christians and we want to be materialists.
We want to store up some treasures in heaven, and we want to have some stored up on this Earth as well.
We are choosing the impossible option. We must make a different choice.
Jesus told us exactly what to do in Luke 12:14; “Watch out! Be on our guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
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6. Not all treasure bound for heaven will end up in heaven. God will use some of it to meet our needs on earth.
It is a grave error to believe that treasure stored in heaven is reserved exclusively for eternity!
By urging His followers to store treasure in heaven, Jesus had no intention of denying them their earthly needs. He declared,
Why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:28-33)
If God clothes billions of flowers with a beauty that cannot be duplicated in the laboratory or in the textile mill, throws them all away, and does the same thing the very next day, don’t you think that He can put clothing on a Christian who is concentrating on storing treasure in heaven?
He knows that the believer who is concentrating on storing treasure in heaven has earthly needs. He will not overlook that fact. He will meet your needs.
But there is no promise in the Bible that God will meet your needs if your goal is storing treasure on earth. In fact, the whole thrust of this passage is that storing treasure in heaven is the only means of assuring that our earthly needs will ever be met. This is our only guarantee of security on earth.
Imagine that God has a bank in heaven, and we have deposited treasure in it. If you have a need, God utilizes those resources to meet your needs. However, if you have made no deposits in Heaven, God has no resources with which to work.
That may be why some of you are in financial trouble and your needs aren’t being met by God—and your prayers seem to bounce.
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6. Are you afraid to store your treasure in heaven? Are you worried about not having “enough”?
You may be afraid to store treasure in heaven. You may be afraid that you are going to run out on the earth. You may be afraid of losing financial security here, or you may be afraid that you will miss out on some joy or pleasure from that money.
I think we’ve all asked, “Lord, if I’m not laying up treasures on the earth, what assurance do I have that my earthly needs will be met?”
Jesus knew that you were going to ask that. Let’s look back at Matthew 6:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (6:25-26)
This passage is a conditional promise. Notice that it hinges on the word, “Therefore.” In Greek, it means, “assuming.” Jesus is tying together everything he just taught:
“Assuming that you have made a commitment to store up treasure in heaven instead of on earth … assuming that you actively move possessions from earth to heaven, then all the promises that are about to follow will be yours.”
Notice that this is not a blanket promise. There is no promise that God will provide for the Christian:
…who sets his or her heart on laying up treasure on earth.
…who refuses to work.
…who overspends his or her income.
…who mismanages his or her money.
…who lives contrary to the biblical principles of finances, such as tithing or caring for the poor.
Do you follow what Jesus is saying here? “If you follow my instructions here, then you will never have to worry about having your earthly needs met.”
Ana, I know it takes faith to store treasure in heaven because we can’t see it or measure it or count it in our checkbook. It takes faith to believe that it is really there. I think that’s why Jesus declares, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Matthew 6:32). He keeps His promises. Always.
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