Powered by Fr. Abraham Mutholath Foundation NFP

Treasure on Earth and in Heaven


TREASURE ON EARTH AND IN HEAVEN

Treasure is any valuable item we have in excess that we preserve for the future. It gives us a sense of security in the event of an accident, sickness, or poor harvest. That was why, while interpreting the dream of Pharaoh, Joseph advised to store the excess grains during the seven years of a wonderful harvest for the draught to come. That saved the lives of Egyptians and the neighboring people (Gen 41:34-36). Thus, the treasure is the security and reserve for future enjoyment. Similarly, we can have spiritual treasure in heaven for the enjoyment of our afterlife.

The type of our treasure depends upon what we value most in life as desirable and worth achieving. That determines our life- goal, motivates our actions, develops our lifestyle, and determines our feeling of success or failure. Depending upon the nature of our goal like wealth, position, popularity, family welfare, or spirituality, we will do everything possible to achieve it at the expense of everything that stands against it. Hence, there are achievements and sacrifice involved in gaining and keeping the treasure, whether it is worldly, spiritual, or heavenly. Even if we have these together, what dominates is what will determine our behavior.

Jesus used the singular word ‘treasure’ for all the valuable contents of the treasury. The treasury collection includes coins, jewels, spices, food, or any other item for the benefit of enjoyment, luxury, and power. When the Magi visited the Child Jesus, “They opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2:11b). So, they were valuable treasures of the time. In the past, kings, temples, property owners, and wealthy people possessed valuable items. The owner would hide or guard it from would-be robbers. While the rich enjoyed and preserved resources for themselves, the common people lived in abject poverty.

The Bible speaks of the worldly, spiritual, and heavenly treasure.

1. Worldly Treasure: One can inherit or gain wealth by royal birth, arduous work, divine providence, luck, or exploitation of others. All inheritance, however, is usable only in this world and will not benefit in the afterlife unless we support the poor to become rich in heaven. Jesus taught the parable of a rich man who had an abundance of harvest. He planned to tear down his barns and build large ones to store all his grains for his own continuous enjoyment. God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” He is known as a “rich fool” (Lk 12:26-21).

The rich man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is another example. Abraham clarified for the wealthy person the reason for the reversal of his and Lazarus’ life after their earthly lives had ceased: “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.” The rich man failed in his selfish life to have consideration for the less fortunate (Lk 16:19-31).

Because of the selfishness of the rich, Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:23-24).

2. Spiritual Treasure: A spiritual person gains and preserves the treasure of faith and morals that will gain him honour in this world and reward in heaven. Examples of his treasure are:

Faith in the Lord is a precious treasure. “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack (Ps 23:1).
Fear of the Lord is also a treasure (Isa 33:6), though it is a part of one’s faith in God. This fear consists of reverential awe of and submission to the Lord. Such devotion in turn constitutes the spiritual powerhouse for us to gain treasure in heaven.

Wisdom is of high value in the Bible. “Happy the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding! Her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue; She is more precious than corals, and no treasure of yours can compare with her” (Prov 3:13-15; 8:11). When Solomon offered a thousand burned offerings in Gibeon, the LORD appeared to him in a dream at night and said: “Whatever you ask, I shall give you.” Solomon asked only for wisdom to govern God’s people. Pleased with his honest choice, the Lord gave him more than wisdom, granting him riches, glory, and a long life (1 Kgs 3:1-15).

Justice is another treasure of God-loving people. “The righteous will inherit the earth and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom; his tongue speaks what is right. God’s teaching is in his heart; his steps do not falter” (Ps 37:29-31). “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but like green leaves the just will flourish” (Prov 11:28).

The Kingdom of God is the most valuable treasure. Jesus said the one who finds it would sacrifice everything else he owns to inherit it. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it” (Mt 13:44-46).

The apostles and the later ministers of the Church considered the Church as their treasure, for which they gave up everything and accepted hardships and suffered persecutions. Paul wrote the paradox of his ministry: “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body” (2 Cor 4:7-10).

3. Heavenly Treasure: Jesus taught that we could transform our earthly wealth into heavenly treasure by the spiritual treasure that we gain through the teachings of Jesus and his Church. Our faith in God, devotion towards Him, wisdom from Him, the justice we practice, participation in the Church, and our Christian witnessing will help to make use of our God-given opportunities for accumulating heavenly treasure in our afterlife. We achieve this by sharing our worldly resources like wealth, time, talents, and opportunities for the welfare of the less fortunate in society based on our faith in Jesus. To the young man who wanted to be perfect in heaven, Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21; Mk 10:21).

The lives of the apostles are other examples. Peter asked Jesus, “‘We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life’” (Mt 19:27-29). Thus, sacrifices for the Kingdom of God in this life are beneficial for the afterlife.

TREASURE ON EARTH

Jesus taught against storing excess wealth with the motive of selfish use. The resource of this world is from God, who is the Father for all humanity. All have the right to enjoy the resources for their survival. The distribution of wealth and talents in the world is uneven. God wants those who have sufficient to take care of the needs of others who deserve it. By doing so, we are taking care of the less fortunate as our siblings, which would please God. While preparing people for the kingdom of God, John the Baptist taught, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:11). So, humanity has to share the resource of the world for the welfare of all. Selfishness is a sin, as with the rich man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).

Those who believe in the afterlife and those who deny it differ in their goals, values, and lifestyle. Our beliefs and views affect our actions. A person who looks forward to heaven will set the goal for the afterlife. He will find less value in the riches, positions, popularity, and power in this world and would try to have resources in heaven. So, his values will be faith-based philanthropy. That person will lead a simple life by sharing his resources with others. As Jesus taught, we must make use of the wealth of this life for the non-perishable and everlasting treasure in heaven.

Paul wrote on the folly of the rich. “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:9-10). During the ministry of Jesus, the elite were self-centered and enjoyed their wealth themselves.

Whatever we attain in the world has an expiration date. Our earthly earnings, such as wealth, prominent positions, popularity, and power, will end later, or at least cease with the end of our lives. As Paul reminds us, “The world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

TREASURE IN HEAVEN

When we migrate to another country, we must sell our property in our homeland and convert the money into the currency of the new nation. If we cannot do that, our migration will be empty- handed. As Christians, we are already members of the kingdom of God and eligible for migration to heaven after death. Jesus taught us, while we are alive on earth, we can deposit spiritual savings for ourselves with God. That is the safest place, free from moth, rust, and robbery. When we make use of our time, health, wealth, and talents to support those in need in the name of Jesus, we are adding up our savings in heaven.

Paul wrote to Timothy about the right use of wealth thus: “Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). At the Last Judgement, Jesus will tell such people, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-36). And he will clarify, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

A third-century Syriac text, known as the Acts of Thomas, presents a story on the missionary work of Thomas in India related to this teaching of Jesus. According to the legend, while the apostle was in India, the local King Gundaphorus entrusted money to Thomas to build a magnificent palace for him. Thomas preached the gospel and helped the poor with the money he received from the king. Finding that Thomas was “misusing” his money and not building the palace, the king summoned Thomas and questioned him. Thomas replied he was building the palace in heaven with the money and the king can occupy it after his death. The king imprisoned Thomas, assuming he was a fraud.

While Thomas was in prison, the king’s brother Gad died. Realizing that Thomas was a miracle-worker, the king summoned Thomas from prison to pray over his brother’s dead body. At the prayer of Thomas, Gad came back to life. He explained to the king that in his lifeless state, he saw a beautiful palace that Thomas had built in heaven for the king. King Gundaphorus prostrated in front of Thomas and apologized for his mistake. This incident led to the conversion of the king along with his people.


©Bibleinterpretation.org. All Rights Reserved 2024