“..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.”
When I was kid, I stored up my money in a small chest in my room. One day, while my family was at church, some selfish jerk broke in and stole it all. I was despondent and angry when I came home. It was a lot of money, and I had saved so diligently and tucked it all so carefully away. That unfortunately taught me fear at very young age, and the subsequent habit of checking on my treasures to be sure they’re still with me.
Jesus’ words here point us toward this idea, but how do we hold them rightly? How do we understand these words, not as we mean them to be, but as He means them. Much of this passage has a long history of misinterpretation. When, for some, Heaven means the end of the world, storing up one’s treasure there means essentially forsaking the stark realities of our little planet. “Care little about anything going on here, because getting souls to Heaven is what’s important.” But is this what He means? I love what NT Wright says, “Heaven is a big deal, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Jesus didn’t believe in a spiritual plane far, far away that God lived in. That’s Gnostic stuff. Believing in an ethereal, distant heaven; a paradise in the clouds is not Christian belief. Jews have historically rejected such an idea, and so had Christians (up until the last 150 years or so, unfortunately.) Christian hope is Heaven that is the resurrection of the body; Heaven that is redemption of the good world around you and me, and that is Good News. Heaven is redemption of the whole thing.
Resurrection affirms that glorious feeling of sun on skin, the salty kiss of your beloved on your shoulder, grass in your toes, your thundering heartbeat when the one you adore is adoring you from across a crowded room.
Resurrection says parties, birthdays, baking bread, making-love to your beloved, whispers in the dark, wine, music, dancing, the oceans and the mountains, the deepest of laughs you have shared, the greatest joys you’ve ever lived, and the most painful aching of your heart ..matter.
Resurrection means it all matters, so it matters what we do with it all!
If little ones, weak ones, the displaced, the refugee, the marginalized, the poor, the oppressed; if they suffer – it matters.
For too many years of my life, I was taught to enjoy life, and wait for it to all get swept away. So then, how was I to store treasures in Heaven? Pray. Talk to people about Jesus. Care about my personal trip to Heaven. Take culturally moral positions on stuff. Meanwhile, enjoy your steak.
Steak is delicious. Fast cars are fun. Big homes, swimming pools and designer clothing are wonderful things, but all of these must be held in light of a dark reality where orphans go unloved and need homes, countless people simply need clean water, sex slaves need us to end the despicable injustice they’re facing everyday, refugees need safety and the hope for a new life. We live in the bleak historical aftermath of centuries of slavery and the effective ripples of whiteness that continue to haunt people of color. Or where police officers keeping the peace are gunned down by U.S. military veterans in the streets of Dallas.
Christians believe in life. Not just as a political slogan; Christians believe in this life! Not life after death – but the Life after life-after-death. Heaven is not less than going to be with God, but it is so much more! It’s resurrection! It’s the pervasive God-reality birthing out from this one, breaking into it through the lifting of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the giving of clean water to the thirsty; it is forgiveness of our sins against one another, the opening of our blind eyes to the love of God, the tearful reconciliation of enemies, the healing of all Creation.
It is Good. Creation is beautiful. And you and I are beautiful in it.
Heaven isn’t a distant place – it’s a different space. It’s the presence of God coming here, and that’s what Jesus means when He tells us to store our treasures (t)here.
And you’ve seen that Heaven here.
You’ve seen it in the feeding of homeless. Store it (t)here.
You’ve glimpsed it in the eyes of your sweetheart. Store it (t)here.
You’ve heard it in the giggle of children at Christmas. Store it (t)here.
You’ve felt it in the forgiving of mass-shooters by their victims’ families. Store it (t)here.
Or in the stories of recovering addicts. Store it (t)here.
You’ve witnessed it in the rescue of animals from our oil spills, the wise stewarding of land and sea, the very dew upon vegetables growing in your garden. Store it (t)here.
You’ve felt it in the interlocked fingers of your sweet friend, bowing their head beside you in prayer. Store it (t)here.
There will be Heaven here.
Store it (t)here.