(A word of encouragement presented at a Protestant All-Faith Church service in October 2015)
In the October 16th 2015 Daily Bread devotional written by Lawrence Darmani, the key verse for the devotional was Matthew 6:20 NKJV, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” I’ve probably read that verse a hundred times and understand that earthly treasures and heavenly treasures are not the same. But at the end of the devotional were two thought provoking questions that stopped me dead in my tracks. The first question was, “In what ways are you storing up your treasures in heaven?” and second, “How might you change and grow in this area of your life?”
After thinking for a few minutes, the answer to the first question seemed obvious. I would like to think that every time I:
- Pick up my cross, crucify my flesh and deny myself;
- Love my family, neighbors, and enemies as I love myself;
- Visit the sick, orphans, widows, and prisoners;
- Bless my family, friends, strangers, and those who curse me;
- Give my time, talents and gifts to benefit others;
- Give out of my riches and my poverty – tithes, freewill offerings, and monetary gifts without conditions;
- Serve others by giving a cup of water, washing their feet, and seating them in a place of honor ahead of myself;
- Humble myself, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give both my cloak and tunic;
- Walk by faith and not by sight;
- Pray, praise, and give thanks to God, and;
- Trust and obey rather than having to ask forgiveness, I was storing up treasures in heaven.
I thought that every self-sacrifice I made, every good deed I did, every act of devotion was like the old S&H Green Stamps I earned and could trade them in for crowns or a bigger mansion in heaven. It was the answer to the second question that showed how shallow my thinking was.
How might I change or grow in this area of my life? What more could I possibly do! As I began to meditate on this question the Holy Spirit reminded me about the Rich Young Ruler from Mark 10:17-31. Could it be that I was being proud of my works? Jesus told the young man to “‘sell whatever you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’ At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” To be a disciple of Christ we cannot put any conditions on our service, the only way is complete obedience.
Then it became clear to me. As I live my life in true righteousness and holiness my every time must become all the time. As I mature in my faith- my eyes, ears and heart must become more sensitive to both the heavenly call on my life and the pitiful conditions surrounding me. I must come to the realization that my righteous acts are like filthy rags. How could my works hope to buy anything in heaven, which is a city paved with streets of gold?
2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us that we are treasures housed in earthly vessels, and John 3:16-17 says that Jesus came than none might perish. The truth is that the treasures we store up in heaven are people, those who come to know Jesus because we were salt and light, the hands and feet of Jesus, a living testimony to the reality of our God.
Shortly after I presented this word of encouragement to the church one of our regular preachers, Jim Jones from Rock of Ages came and preached a sermon that confirmed my conclusion that the treasures we store up in heaven are the people that we reach for Christ. Over and over my insights into prison life and spiritual life have been confirmed by a variety of sources. Some of these confirmations have been of a more universal nature showing that some things never change over time and distance like books, newspaper articles or television documentaries from all over the country and around the world. Others have been very specific such as this instance where Rev. Jones’ language was almost verbatim of my own.
Since I am neither an expert in criminal justice nor theology, I tend to be widely read to better understand the subjects. However, in prison there is no access to the internet and unless someone sends you a book from out in the free world all you have to read are books in the General Library or Chaplin’s library. Until preparing this blog post for publication I had never heard “The way you store up treasure in heaven is by investing in getting people there” quote by Rick Warren.
That being said, most of my blog posts are essays written to help me process and share information based on my own experience, perceptions and insights. Meditation features prominently since to me the leading of the Holy Spirit is a crucial component to how I gain understanding and wisdom. My friend Daniel once called me a ‘wise man’ and my response was to say that I was only a ‘wise guy.’ I humbly acknowledge that I am free and forgiven only by the grace of God, that all my words are from Him, and are intended to give Him praise and glory.