How to Store up Treasure in Heaven
You’ve probably heard the saying that we should “store up treasures in Heaven” instead of focusing on earthly possessions. This phrase is used by Jesus numerous times and once by Paul, but is first and most famously used in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not lay up [treasure] 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 ESVThe question then becomes, “How do I seek treasure in Heaven?”. There is great news. We do not have to speculate or even infer wisdom from the Bible indirectly. Did you know the Bible tells us directly how to store treasure in Heaven? Let’s take a look directly at how we “lay up treasure in Heaven”.
Paul’s InstructionSo how do we acquire this treasure that Jesus referred to? Well Paul gives us an explicit how-to in his First Epistle to Timothy:
“[The rich Christians] are to do good, to be rich in good works[:] to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life”- 1 Tim 6:18-19 (slight grammatical modification for exegesis)Very specifically, Paul tells Timothy that rich Christians (and all believers) can store up treasures in Heaven by being generous and sharing.
There is a direct correlation between earthly generosity and heavenly treasures. Notice, this is not saying that the more generous you are on earth, the more earthly treasures you will have (like the prosperity gospel). This is representative of a financial transaction or exchange- earthly wealth is put aside for the future wealth of Heaven. Much like one invests money for retirement, incurring a present loss that will bring future value, so one who is generous will establish a foundation in rock for the future (1 Tim 6:19). "Storing" up treasure in Heaven means putting your money in a bank account to have it for later (in this case this is done by being generous).
It is very clear in Scripture that heavenly treasure is only brought about by earthly giving. When Paul’s instruction to Timothy is understood grammatically, the “generous” and “ready to share” are specific examples of the good works. Only the generosity and sharing are described as an activity that creates a heavenly investment, not good works in general. This is supported through Jesus’ practical examples.
Jesus’ Practical ExamplesSo Paul gives a “how-to” for creating treasure for Heaven, while Jesus gives us practical examples. Luke’s Gospel features very similar language to the Sermon on the Mount, but in a different place and different order. Jesus tells his disciples,
“Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure, there will your heart be also.”Both Matthew and Luke focus on the importance of investing in Heaven’s treasure, so as to not become attached to Earthly wealth (Luke 12:34, Matt 6:24). Here, Jesus tells us exactly how to gain this treasure- sell your possessions and give to the poor. This does not mean we all have to sell everything we have, but it does mean we must be sacrificial and do whatever it takes to be generous and invest in Heaven (investments require present loss for future value).
There is one other example that Jesus gives us, which is featured in all three synoptic Gospels. In his conversation with the rich young ruler Jesus tells him:
“Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…”- Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22, Matt 19:21The rich young ruler had faithfully obeyed all of God’s commands, but he desired eternal life. For him, he had to give up what was most important to him- his material possessions and wealth. Again, Jesus gives the practical example of storing up heavenly treasures by selling possessions and being charitable to the poor. The emphasis, once again, is on sacrificially providing for those in poverty and forsaking earthly goods (what we often value most) for heavenly goods (which we do not benefit from, yet). To store up Heaven’s treasure, there must be some personal loss. The same principle of investments applies here: the higher “risk” creates a higher reward. Therefore, the more we are willing to “risk” our earthly wealth, the more we will reap in Heaven.
ConclusionEvery single use of the phrase “treasures in Heaven” is somehow related to money. This means that heavenly treasure is a specific kind of reward for a specific action and is not referring to general rewards in heaven. Treasure in heaven is used as an analogy for some sort of reward in Heaven, as a result of financial activity on Earth. We cannot know what this reward will be exactly, but we know that:
“...God will repay each according to his deeds” (Rom 2:6, Matt 16:27), so a heavenly treasure will somehow correspond to earthly generosity.So how do we lay up treasure in Heaven? We must physically invest our money and material possessions, by sacrificially giving to others to receive Heaven’s dividends. By doing this, we will prepare ourselves for some future reward that will be better than money on earth. While on Earth, our reward will be blessing the needy and having a mindset that realizes the temporary nature of this life’s goods and that earnestly awaits the rewards of the next life.