We know there are heavenly treasures, because Jesus says so, but what are they?
Some say God is going to dispense treasure, mansions, and even cities to those who have proven faithful. “There had better be some reward for my hard work—a gold star at least—otherwise why I am working?”
Others say there are no rewards at all. “Everything comes to us by grace alone, so there can be no rewards for effort.”
I have problems with both views. My problem with the God-of-the-gold-stars is that he promotes a servant mentality when we are sons. And my problem with the idea that there are no heavenly treasures, is that it contradicts what Jesus said:
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matt 6:20, NKJV)
The issue of heavenly treasures or eternal rewards is riddled with question marks. It’s a subject that has been abused by some (“Store up treasure by giving to my ministry”) and left in the too-hard basket by others. Grace-minded folk seem particularly allergic to any talk of earning rewards, and this is understandable. Grace and rewards don’t go together.
Yet Jesus said they did.
Mansions in heaven
“You must be reading this wrong. Don’t you know that in Christ we are heirs of all things? What need have we of rewards?” It’s true that Jesus is our reward, and what greater reward could there be?
No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6, GNB)
What is the reward of the seeker but to find that which is sought? If you are searching for God you will find him and he will be your very great reward (see Gen 15:1). Whatever the treasures of heaven may be, they are nothing in comparison with Jesus, who is the Reward for those who seek him. This is why those who are slaving for mansions are misguided. When Jesus is your home, what need have you of mansions?
This is not the place where I talk about our inheritance in Christ. All you need to know about that is it’s good! If you are the newest Christian or the eleventh-hour worker, you will be as richly blessed as the oldest, most faithful saint. Eternity will not be divided into the haves and have-nots, for we are all one in Christ.
But we can distinguish Christ our reward from the heavenly treasure that Jesus said can be stored up, and the rewards Paul said are given according to our labor. At the risk of sounding like a grace-killer, let me say all believers have a glorious inheritance in Christ, but some will also receive heavenly treasures. There is a difference. Our inheritance comes to us through grace alone, while heavenly treasures can be worked for and accumulated.
But eternal rewards may not be what you think.
What are heavenly treasures?
What are eternal rewards? What is our heavenly treasure? The answer may surprise you, but it’s people.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. (Ps 127:3)
This psalm is not just talking about biological children. God has bigger plans for you and they involve spiritual children. Lots of them. Dozens. Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. Don’t limit God.
- Just as Abraham was called to be the father of many nations, so are you.
- Jesus said those who followed him would be fishers of men. What is a fisherman’s reward? It’s fish, or people in this case.
- What is the reward of the one who sows and waters the good seed? It’s a harvest of people.
- What is treasure that never wears out and cannot be stolen? It’s people.
A Father’s reward
God gave me this revelation years ago at a time when Camilla and I were asking, “Do we want another child?” Having a child is the biggest decision a couple can make. You have to ask, “Is there room in our lives for another person? Can we afford the cost of raising a child?”
Do you know that God is not troubled by these questions? He has plenty of room and can easily afford it.
In my heart I felt my Father say, “I want more kids! I always want more kids!” His heart bursts with love that craves expression. Just as a painter has to paint and a writer has to write, a father has to father. It’s what he does. I’m not sure how many children I am capable of fathering, but God is a far bigger Father than me. He has no limits. His heart cries, “I treasure children. The more, the better!”
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus introduces God as our heavenly Father. In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says he is a Father who rewards us. And what is a father’s reward?
It is children.
Storing up heavenly treasure
When Jesus exhorts us to store up treasures in heaven, he is not saying, “Store up me.” How would we do that? He’s saying, “Be fruitful and multiply so that when this moth-eaten, money-grubbing world passes away, you will have treasures in heaven—spiritual children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”
I admit, this was a startling revelation. I grew up in an average-sized family and planned to have an average-sized family of my own. It never occurred to me that God isn’t your average Father with average dreams. His desire is to grow the world’s largest family and he treats people like treasure. This is obvious once you see it. Indeed, it’s a theme that runs through scripture:
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God… his treasured possession. (Deu 7:6)
God chose you out of all the people on Earth as his cherished personal treasure. (Deu 14:2b, MSG)
You are your Father’s treasure!
Adapted from ch. 20, “What are eternal rewards?” in The Gospel in Twenty Questions.
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