Friday, September 24, 2010

What's it Worth?

Do you believe in Heaven?

I know that not everybody believes in heaven. And I know that not everybody's beliefs about heaven are the same.

So let's start by saying that if you don't believe in heaven, you can go ahead and skip this post. There isn't anything here that is going to try to convince you of heaven's existence or my idea of what it takes to get into heaven. It's more about what is heaven you?

It's kind of odd that not everybody that believes in heaven, also believes in hell. And there are some people believe that everybody gets to heaven. (I guess there's not a lot of real value in living a life worthy of heaven if everybody gets to go.)

So for the context of this post, let's assume that heaven is a place to be greatly desired and hell (where everybody that doesn't get to heaven goes) is a place to be greatly shunned. If you're just an end results kind of person, it probably doesn't matter if your motivation is to attain heaven or to avoid hell. However, your motivation may make a difference between living a life of joy or a life of fear.

The reason that I ask this question is that I was reading in Matthew, chapter 13.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he buried it again and then went and sold everything that he had and bought the field.

Wait a says in his joy he sold everything he had. I imagine him as absolutely giddy about knowing that this great treasure is soon to be his. He knew that the value of the field was equal to everything that he owned but was willing to give it all up for the value of the hidden treasure which was worth so much more. I'm sure that the only way for him to obtain the field was to sell everything he had. In doing so, he purchased the field and all that was in it (the treasure).

So what if the only way to heaven is to surrender all that we have to God? I'm not suggesting that heaven can be bought, but I'm wondering just how literal does Jesus want us to take this little example of "the kingdom of heaven is like..."?

First of all, I don't see too many modern day Christians that are willing to give everything in exchange for heaven. Secondly, I don't see them doing it joyfully. Truthfully, if this is a realistic example of what the kingdom of heaven is like (and I have no reason to believe that Jesus is kidding around about it), then I'm currently left out in the darkness. There are plenty of things that I do for myself or my family that are done without a thought of how little impact they have on eternity. Dinner out tonight, new carpeting in the upstairs bedrooms, hardwood in the living room and hallway, vinyl in the upstairs bath--all nice (not necessary) but all for us. You can say that this is good stewardship; that we are just taking good care of our home, or you can say that we have too much and give too little to the cause of expanding the kingdom.

I really think that this should be a matter of great concern for professing Christians. In Southern Baptist culture, there is this mythological belief that if you pray a certain prayer Jesus will come into your heart and save you from eternal damnation. I don't find that in the Bible. I think that we've fooled millions of people into believing that they're going to heaven and they are as condemned as any unbeliever can be.

They have given nothing of themselves to following the Jesus that they say is their Lord.
They are not disciples that give themselves to studying His life and imitating His character.
There is little difference between the life they lead and the life of the average Joe without any thoughts of heaven and hell, good and evil, God or no god.
They bear no good fruit for the glory of God.

...And they (we) keep their stuff.

As I try to work this out in my own mind (and for my own sake), I am troubled. I take comfort in knowing that my God is far greater than I can imagine and His ways are far beyond my understanding. I am grateful for the comfort I find in Jesus' words just a few chapters away. A rich young man comes to Jesus searching for eternal life. You can read the encounter here.

Okay, that part is pretty discouraging. The encouraging part is what Jesus says next:
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then, can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Are the riches of heaven enough to cause you to surrender your earthly possessions? Is the promise of eternity worth more than anything this world can offer? Have you taken too lightly the parable of the buried treasure or the encounter of the rich young ruler?

If Jesus was serious when He told this story and when He encountered the rich man, how do you stand on the question of eternal salvation?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John, this is a very "radical" post! - josh hall