(This article is an excerpt of my book, The Coming Kingdom of God.)
The Christian life is not a life of self-denial just for the sake of self-denial. It is self-denial with purpose. That purpose is to gain eternal life and all the treasures of Christ promised His disciples.
Obviously, Christ Himself is the great treasure of treasures. Take away the Person of Christ and the definition of heavenly treasure loses its meaning and value.
But as we will see, Christ and the treasures He offers us are not in competition with one another. In fact, Christians should seek treasure in heaven. For we are commanded to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) and to “seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
Notice these are commands. We are commanded to lay up heavenly treasures and to seek them. God even calls them in our Colossians verse, “things.” These things are not Christ. They are things in heaven near Christ. Near Christ. Not the Christ.
This is a critical distinction because most Christians do not understand their future as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. They do not understand there is a holy place of pre-eminently valuing and eagerly pursuing the things for which we were created.
I said the things for which we were created with full knowledge that we were created for God. But my focus in this article is to help you see that integral to God’s purpose of creating us for Himself is for us to bring Him joy by enjoying the eternal things He desires to give us in the coming kingdom of God.
Jesus Commands A Man To Seek Treasures In Heaven
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come take up the cross, and follow Me.”Mark 10:21
Jesus asked this would-be disciple to get rid of all his wealth if he truly wanted to follow Him. Notice that Jesus didn’t ask him to do this without promising him something in return. He promised him “treasure in heaven.”
The hope was that this man would see beyond the temporary treasures of this world that he might attain the true riches which last forever.
It’s important that we not succumb to a false humility that changes the promised heavenly treasure into merely being in God’s presence face to face. I know how that sounds. Horrible. Fleshly. Irreverent.
Merely being in God’s presence face to face?
How does any Christian with half a spiritual brain twist his mouth to use the word “merely” to describe being face-to-face with God? Here is why I’ve chosen this word.
I use “merely” not to undervalue the infinite God and the inestimable blessing of being honored and privileged to see Him face-to-face. I use it to identify how we have undervalued the multi-faceted content and experience which comprise “treasure in heaven.”
As Randy Alcorn’s magnificent book, Heaven, conveys, the church generally concludes that it is unspiritual to desire any heavenly treasure other than God Himself. Yet it is God who reveals to us details of the treasures He has created for us. And it is God who has created us to desire them for His glory.
Is It Wrong To Desire Something Other Than God?
(Please note that the question is not, Is it wrong to desire something more than God? Other than and more than are two different worlds!)
Look at the garden of Eden. God was as infinitely wonderful then as He is now. Yet, He didn’t create Adam, set him on his knees before Him, and command him, “Look only at Me all your days. Worship me and desire nothing other than Me. I am your sole Treasure.”
To be sure, God could have done so. But this would have required the Lord to desire something of us other than what He desires, which is that we not only desire and enjoy Him, but that we desire and enjoy the gifts and responsibilities He gives us. In a sense, they are inseparable. For the King comes with all that He is and all that He has.
If God did not want us to desire His gifts and pleasures, He would have kept us ignorant of them. He would just lay it on us when we see Him. He also wouldn’t command us to seek them, as He does.
Furthermore, He would have created us with different desires than He did. For He created us to have great pleasure in His Person and His creation.
When God created Adam, it was on an extraordinarily beautiful planet that was not yet degraded by the curse of sin. Nature was mesmerizingly beautiful. Animals were intriguing, delightful, and peaceful. Weather was perfect for every occasion.
As for Adam, he had a strong, healthy, beautiful body that was immune to decay, pain, sickness, disease, or death. His brain worked at peak capacity, producing exceedingly sharp calculations, observations, and insights.
Spiritually, his heart was sinless and predisposed toward God. He was incredibly blessed in spirit, soul, body, as well as materially and environmentally.
Finally, God capped it off by giving him purpose in life by assigning him the job of ruling the world.
So, God creates a man in His own image and gives him a world to rule. What do we see in this? We see that God obviously had a desire for a man who would be in His class, although not divine.
This exalted being would have the capacity to rule the world. But he would also need the desire to rule the world. For without the desire to rule, the man would have to fight against his own nature to satisfy God’s desire. That would be a mess.
Paul referred to this truth in Philippians 2:13 of how He gives us desires to match our responsibilities and tasks: For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Therefore, God necessarily placed a natural desire in Adam to rule.
Let’s go on.
Is God Our Everything?
God’s initial declaration after He created the earth and man was to declare His creation “very good.” So, it must be very good for man to rule the earth. But God wasn’t finished. After a period, He said of Adam, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18).
I want to bring out two points that I hope will strengthen my argument that “treasures in heaven” is not solely God Himself. Instead, in a comprehensive sense it is all God is, all God has, all God desires us to do, and all God desires us to experience.
First, God could have created Adam to serve and worship Him solely through singing to Him, playing instruments for Him, dancing around Him, and lying prostrate before Him.
Perhaps Adam did do those things. But if Adam did, they were supplementary to his primary, mandated method of worshipping God, which was ruling the world.
Second, God created a woman for the man. Guys, work with me here. Imagine a woman created by the very hands of the omnipotent God. Beautiful. Sinless. Loving. And yours. Sounds like a good deal.
The critical observation of these two points is that ruling the world and getting a new wife requires a lot of time and effort. Time that could be used to worship God.
Yet, the unchanging God who requires one hundred percent of our devotion did not see Adam’s job of ruling the world and relationship with his wife as necessary threats to that devotion. How can this be? I thought God was supposed to be our everything.
How Do I Honor God?
Of course, this is true. God is our everything. The disconnect, however, is that we’ve changed what it means to love, serve, and worship God, and what it means to honor Him as the supreme treasure of our life.
We’ve forgotten that God’s Genesis 1 – 2 template reveals what He considers true love and worship of God. It is to keep His commands, and to allow Him to fulfill His desires in our life—whatever they may be.
If His desire is that our primary worship to Him is to sing a song, we do it. If it’s to dig a ditch, we do it. The mistake is that the singer harshly judges the ditch digger because he doesn’t sing as much as she does. And the ditch digger harshly judges the singer because she doesn’t dig ditches at all!
The point is that in the beginning, the treasures of heaven for Adam and Eve consisted not only of knowing and loving God in the traditional sense, but included receiving, populating, and ruling the kingdom of the first world, and experiencing human relationships.
It was a composite package, and there is no legitimate reason to omit any part. Or to create artificial competition between the parts. For God declared this original package “very good.”
What if to make the package more spiritual, we say, “God’s will for Adam and Eve was for them to know, love, and worship Him forever,” and we leave it at that?
The statement is true, but lacks the critical details that God created them to do these things through the first earth paradise, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their relationship with one another, and their direct interactions with Him.
Similarly, when God speaks to us of treasures in heaven, as He did the rich young ruler, and when we are encouraged to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” we should understand, as much as is presently possible, the extent of these treasures.
Proper Way to Think About Laying Up Treasures In Heaven
Certainly, God is the Great Treasure from whom all subsequent and lesser treasures flow. And we may sincerely say, “I don’t care about heavenly treasures. All I want and need is Him.” But without any ill intent, I must add that this statement is as uninformed as it is sincere. For there is no way to separate the Treasure from His treasure.
This odd sentiment is like saying, “I don’t care about God’s glory or power or beauty. All I care about is Him. Just give me Jesus!” But how is it possible to receive Jesus without His glory, power, or beauty? There is no such Jesus.
A dissected, segmented Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. You can say, “Just give me Jesus,” but there is no biblical Jesus that comes without His treasure-filled kingdom.
Furthermore, to say, “Just give me Jesus!” as a roundabout way to say you value Him far more than anything He has is to exhibit a lack of understanding about God’s own desires. Heavenly treasures are not an afterthought. They are the very reason for which we were created.
We were created to be the sons and daughters of Almighty God and to share His possessions. How is it possible to be a son or daughter of God and not inherit the kingdom of God? And how does it make sense to say you’d settle for a Jesus without treasure, when there is no such Jesus?
I believe we disappoint God when we say such unbiblical statements as, “I don’t care about heavenly treasure. Just give me Jesus.” Let’s stop rejecting our inheritance with misplaced humility. Heavenly treasure is not something to fear, suspect, malign, ignore, or reject. It’s something God has created us for.
Finally, let’s get over the hurdle of a misplaced fear of idolatry. We are not talking about seeking something other than God. We are talking about obeying God’s command for us to value and seek what He desires us to value and seek.
Which can only come if He is number one in our lives.
(This article is an excerpt of my book, The Coming Kingdom of God.)
- When Do We Receive Eternal Life?
- Can Jesus Return Before the Gospel Is Preached to the Whole World?
- Will We Rule With Christ?
 This is not a quote. Rather, it is my assessment of a major point Randy Alcorn makes throughout the book. Get the book! It’s fabulous.
 Read Genesis 1 – 2.
 Genesis 1:31
 This is exactly what God promises to those who participate in the coming kingdom of God!
 Matthew 6:19-21
The Bible says we will get a new body. But this body will not be new in the sense that it is created out of nothing. Instead, it will be a transformation of our present body. This is similar to the...
The Christian faith promises that those who die in Christ will be raised from the dead. But how are they raised? The Bible tells us the dead are raised by God using the old physical substance of the...