Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Deposits in the Bank of Heaven

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20)
How do we lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven? Or to put it in perhaps a more current mode, How do we open up an account with God and make deposits. The Bible gives us a few ways:

Giving to the Poor. As we saw in the last post, one way we lay up treasure for ourselves is by giving to the poor. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). There is a divine accounting that goes on, even the creation of divine obligation. When we give to the poor, God commits Himself to pay it back, and He will always do so with interest. When we give to the poor, we are laying up for ourselves treasure in heaven. Jesus told the rich young man, “Sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).

Honoring the Lord with Your Firstfruits. Another way we also lay up treasure for ourselves by honoring the Lord with our possessions. “Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). A barn is a storehouse, a treasury. When we give God the firstfruits — the first and best, not the last and least — of our possessions and increase, He causes our storehouses to overflow.

The Hundredfold Return. We also lay up treasure for ourselves whenever we give for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). Not only is there a hundredfold return, but notice that we receive it “now in this time.” If the rich young man had obeyed Jesus’ instruction, sold his possessions and given to the poor, he would have received it back a hundred times over.

We find this same principle at work in the Old Testament, when Isaac obeyed the Lord and dwell in the land God show him, instead of going down to Egypt because of famine. “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous” (Genesis 26:12-13). Because he stayed in the land for God’s sake!

Partnership in the Gospel. Many people know the promise in Philippians that God will supply all our needs, but they often miss the context in which this promise is made.
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19-20)
Notice the words “giving and receiving.” The Greek words behind them are terms used for accounting. Note also, “fruit that abounds to you account.” The Philippians had often sent financial assistance to Paul and his gospel ministry. Though they may not have realized it at the time, they were actually laying up treasure for themselves with God, and God was greatly pleased with their deposits. It is out of this context that Paul assures them, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Notice that Paul did not simply say, “and God,” or “our God,” or “your God,” but “my God.” For through their assistance they had become partners with Paul in the gospel ministry; they shared in a joint account with Paul.

Peter experienced this principle while he was still a fisher of fish. He partnered with Jesus, lending his boat as a pulpit. Afterward, Jesus told him to “launch out into the deep and let down you nets for a catch.” Peter obeyed and caught an astonishing number of fish, even though he had already toiled all night with nothing to show for it (Luke 5:1-11).

Ministering to the Saints. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul was receiving an offering to minister to the saints who were in financial need, and offered this encouragement to give generously:
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)
Notice that there is an accounting going on here: As one sows, that is how they will reap. Sow bountifully, reap bountifully. It is in the context of sowing — of making deposits — that Paul assures them of an abundant return: Always having all sufficiency in all things, plus plenty more for giving to every good work. It is impossible to give to God without receiving more in return.

Give to the Lord in every way. Honor Him with all you are and have. You will be making deposits into a divine account and He will take care of you in all things, and the abundance of heaven will be manifest on the earth.