The streets of Cairo were hot and dusty. Pat and Rakel Thurman took us down an alley. We drove past Arabic signs to a gate that opened to a plot of overgrown grass. It was a graveyard for American missionaries.
As my family and I followed, Pat pointed to a sun-scorched tombstone that read: “William Borden, 1887-1913.”
Borden, a Yale graduate and heir to great wealth, rejected a life of ease in order to bring the gospel to Muslims. Refusing even to buy himself a car, Borden gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars to missions. After only four months of zealous ministry in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis and died at the age of twenty-five.
I dusted off the epitaph on Borden’s grave. After describing his love and sacrifices for the kingdom of God and for Muslim people, the inscription ended with a phrase I’ve never forgotten: “Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.”
The Thurmans took us straight from Borden’s grave to the Egyptian National Museum. The King Tut exhibit was mind-boggling.
Tutankhamen, the boy king, was only seventeen when he died. He was buried with solid gold chariots and thousands of golden artifacts. The burial site was filled with tons of gold.
The Egyptians believed in an afterlife—one where they could take earthly treasures. But all the treasures intended for King Tut’s eternal enjoyment stayed right where they were until Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber in 1922. They hadn’t been touched for more than three thousand years.
I was struck by the contrast between these two graves. Borden’s was obscure, dusty, and hidden off the back alley of a street littered with garbage. Tutankhamen’s tomb glittered with unimaginable wealth. Yet where are these two young men now? One, who lived in opulence and called himself king, is in the misery of a Christless eternity. The other, who lived a modest life on earth in service of the one true King, is enjoying his everlasting reward in the presence of his Lord.
Tut’s life was tragic because of an awful truth discovered too late—he couldn’t take his treasures with him. William Borden’s life was triumphant. Why? Because instead of leaving behind his treasures, he sent them on ahead.
If you imagine heaven as a place where you will strum a harp in endless tedium, you probably dread it. But if you trust Scripture, you will be filled with joy and excitement as you anticipate your heavenly home.
Some of us will reign with Christ (Revelation 20:6). Faithful servants will be put “in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Christ will grant some followers leadership over cities, in proportion to their service on earth (Luke 19:12-19). Scripture refers to five different crowns, suggesting leadership positions. We’ll even command angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).
We are given these eternal rewards for doing good works (Ephesians 6:8; Romans 2:6, 10), persevering under persecution (Luke 6:22-23), showing compassion to the needy (Luke 14:13-14), and treating our enemies kindly (Luke 6:35).
God also grants us rewards for generous giving: “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). He is keeping a record of all we do for Him, including our giving: “A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name” (Malachi 3:16).
Imagine a scribe in heaven recording each of your gifts on that scroll. The bike you gave to the neighbor kid, the books to prisoners, the monthly checks to the church, missionaries, and pregnancy center—all are being chronicled. Scrolls are made to be read. I look forward to hearing your giving stories and meeting those touched by what you gave.
Paul spoke about the Philippians’ financial giving and explained, “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17). God keeps an account open for us in heaven, and every gift given for His glory is a deposit in that account. Not only God, not only others, but we are the eternal beneficiaries of our giving. (Have you been making regular deposits?)
But isn’t it wrong to be motivated by reward? No, it isn’t. If it were wrong, Christ wouldn’t offer it to us as a motivation. Reward is His idea, not ours.
Our instinct is to give to those who will give us something in return. But Jesus told us to give to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind … Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14). If we give to those who can’t reward us, Christ guarantees He will personally reward us in heaven.
Giving is a giant lever positioned on the fulcrum of this world, allowing us to move mountains in the next world. Because we give, eternity will be different—for others and for us.
A heart in the right place
God promises us generous heavenly rewards, in a magnificent New Heaven and New Earth, no longer under the curse and no longer suffering (Revelation 21:1-6). We’ll forever be with the person we were made for, in a place made for us.
Nevertheless, many Christians dread the thought of leaving this world.
Why? Because so many have stored up their treasures on earth, not in heaven. Each day brings us closer to death. If your treasures are on earth, that means each day brings you closer to losing your treasures.
John Wesley toured a vast estate with a proud plantation owner. They rode their horses for hours and saw only a fraction of the man’s property. At the end of the day they sat down to dinner. The plantation owner eagerly asked, “Well, Mr. Wesley, what do you think?”
Wesley replied, “I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this.”
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
By telling us that our hearts follow our treasure, Jesus is saying, “Show me your checkbook, your VISA statement, and your receipts, and I’ll show you where your heart is.”
As surely as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasure. Money leads; hearts follow.
Do you wish you cared more about eternal things? Then reallocate some of your money, maybe most of your money, from temporal things to eternal things. Watch what happens.
God wants your heart. He isn’t looking just for “donors” for His kingdom, those who stand outside the cause and dispassionately consider acts of philanthropy. He’s looking for disciples immersed in the causes they give to. He wants people so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing their money, time, and prayers where they will matter most.
Of course, giving isn’t the only good thing we can do with money. We need to feed, clothe, house, and transport our families. But when the basics are taken care of, why shouldn’t the rest go toward treasures in heaven?
He who lays up treasures on earth spends his life backing away from his treasures. To him, death is loss.
He who lays up treasures in heaven looks forward to eternity; he’s moving daily toward his treasures. To him, death is gain.
Are you despairing or rejoicing?