Storing heavenly riches (Matthew 6:19-24)

Jesus here teaches his disciples that they should engage in storing heavenly riches. How do they do so? A simple but correct answer would be to say that they engage in the various features that Jesus has already mentioned in this sermon on the mount. By doing them, his disciples will store up treasures in heaven. So we can think about that briefly.

The first example is almsgiving. Who were the people helping when they gave alms? Usually it was their fellow Jews. They were helping those that they knew were depending on God to meet their needs. I think Jesus expects his people who have assets to help those of his people who do not have any. This is the thrust of his parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. In that parable, Jesus speaks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and so on. He even says that when they did so, they were doing it to him, a reminder of the union that believers have with Jesus.

This does not mean that they should not give to other needy people. Jesus on one occasion told a parable about inviting guests to a feast. He said not to invite those who can invite you back but to invite those who cannot. Then he said that if his disciples did this they would be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:12-14).

The second example from his sermon was prayer. As far as praying about people is concerned, there are two options. We can pray for those we know and we can pray for those we don’t know. Imagine standing there at the Day of Judgement and discovering that your prayers brought about the conversions of people in other parts of the world. Perhaps on a certain day, you found yourselves wanting to pray for people in a certain place, and then you forgot about it. But on the great day you discover that on that previous day many people were converted, and that Jesus brought them to conversion through a preacher or whatever method, and that he did not do so until he had led you and others to pray about it. I suspect that Jesus does not lead us to do such a specific thing unless we are in the habit of praying earnestly for the progress of his kingdom everywhere. Such types of prayer are an incredible way of storing up heavenly treasure.

Of course, they are not only types of prayer connected to progress in the kingdom. Another way of growth is personal spiritual development. We pray about such matters in ourselves, but we also pray about things that we see in other people. I would suggest that is one reason why God reveals such details to you. Have you ever wondered why other people don’t see an issue in someone that is obvious to you? God is giving you an opportunity to store up heavenly riches by praying for that individual and his or her defect. Of course, you should not mention it to them by saying something like, ‘I am praying about your bad temper.’ Such a way of speaking is probably a statement of pride. But just take the matter to the heavenly banker and wait to see how much treasure has been laid up.

If we stay with the items mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, we will see that one of them concerned the willingness of Christ’s disciples to forgive one another. Forgiving in this way is an expression of brotherly love and it is the case that deeds of brotherly love will be rewarded. Jesus said that if a disciple gives a cup of cold water to another disciple he will be rewarded (Mark 9:41). There are many other ways of showing brotherly love, and they will all produce treasure in heaven.

The third discipline that Jesus mentioned was setting aside time from legitimate things (fasting) in order to enjoy the presence of God. When someone does that properly, Jesus told him or her not to hide the joy. Imagine the effect that a happy man has on his contacts. Many of them are looking for happiness in earthly treasures, and he is showing them that greater joy is found in knowing God. And the more he does that, the more treasures he has in heaven.

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