Giving what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  1 Peter 1:3-5


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
-Jim Elliot

 

Eternity has been on my mind lately.

Among the pile of books that I am currently reading is Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In addition to being an excellent read, it is profoundly changing my thinking . . . . profoundly! He speaks boldly of this world.

“Someday this upside-down world will be turned right side up. Nothing in all eternity will turn it back again. If we are wise, we will spend our brief lives on earth positioning ourselves for the turn.”

I have been a Christian for thirty plus years. Every time I have given money to a mission organization, supported a child living in poverty, sacrificed for my family, or loved and offered hope to someone in need, I considered it an act of obedience. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and He has commanded me to love and give sacrificially.

Even though compassionate plays into it, my attitude toward these practices has been, “I have lost something for the benefit of another” (money, time, etc.). I thought of it as my loss. Making sacrifices for God is what we are supposed to do. It is the right thing to do.

“ . . . . and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”   Luke 14:14

Most Christians think of serving, sacrificing, and giving as losing something. If we give $100 to the children’s hunger fund, than we now have $100 less than we did before. We are losing something, so that someone else can gain. It is the selfless thing to do.

But . . . is it really selfless? Is it really a loss?

What if we aren’t really losing? What if we are actually gaining when we sacrifice for others?

What if I was actually gaining whenever I lost something for Christ? What if I was actually receiving something whenever I gave something away? What if everything does have an eternal reward?

What if eternity is perfectly just?

Sacrifice is defined as, the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim (dictionary.com). What if there was a higher and more pressing claim in eternity?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.   2 Corinthians 4:17

If every good thing that I do either gets a reward that I cannot keep here on earth, or a reward in heaven that I can enjoy for all eternity, that changes everything!

Eternity changes everything!

“View the present in light of the future; see time in light of eternity; look beyond sacrifice to reward; bear the cross while anticipating the crown.”
-Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity

 

Is it selfish to focus and take joy in our future treasures in heaven? Maybe it is. However, the one thing that we are allowed to be selfish about is storing up treasures in heaven.

railway to sunny horizonBut store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.   Matthew 6:20

We tend not to think with an eternal perspective. It is all about the here and now. Most of us would say that we believe in eternity, but don’t really understand what it means. Eternity seems like some abstract idea that we can never fully grasp. The concept is hard to wrap our brains around.

If we did believe in eternity in heaven, and took it seriously, our lives might be drastically different. Our priorities might change. We might think differently about our time, money and treasures. The things that we worry and stress about now might fade away into the distance.

As the hymn goes . . .

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the Light of His glory and grace

Money and how we spend our time doesn’t just affect the here and now. It affects eternity. And, if we are thinking about eternity, there really should be no limit to our generosity.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.  Malachi 3:10

Gone are the days when we were fixated on these concerns.

Do I have enough? and,
How can I get more?

Focusing on eternity causes us to ask these questions instead.

Am I doing enough for others?
Am I being generous enough? and,
How can I give more?

When we are living for eternity, we are truly free. We can have freedom from the worries of the here and now.

So, it is almost December. Christmas is coming. Sometimes I think that there isn’t any time when Christians resemble the world more than at Christmastime.

What if we viewed Christmas in light of eternity? Would we do anything differently?

It all comes down to, do I want my reward now to enjoy for a short time and then lose it, or do I want to wait and enjoy my reward eternally in heaven? When we look at it this way, it’s a no brainer. If we delay our gratification there is a huge payoff! And the payoff is guaranteed . . . . we all die eventually!

Are we willing to give up a little of what we love so much about Christmas to store up eternal treasures in heaven?

What we usually do at Christmas time:

  • Run around frantically shopping for giftsStriped New Year's Ball With A Red Tape.
  • Decorate our homes in the Christmas spirit
  • Give and receive presents from friends and family
  • Throw parties with our friends and neighbors
  • Listen to Christmas music and enjoy Christmas concerts
  • Participate in a live nativity scene or go caroling
  • Tell the story of baby Jesus
  • Eat a Christmas feast and gobs of Christmas cookies
  • Spend time with family around a Christmas tree in the warmth of a roaring fire
  • Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman

None of these things are wrong. I love the sights and smells and warm fuzzy feelings of Christmas as much as anybody. I love being with my family. I love a roaring fire in the fireplace and the smell of cookies in the oven. I am not saying that we shouldn’t do these things.

What I am saying is . . .

Why would we forfeit eternal treasures for just these things? Eternity with God in heaven will probably have these wonderful Christmas things times 100 . . . maybe times 1,000,000! And we will get to keep them forever!

What I am saying is that the fun, ‘Christmas-y’ things shouldn’t be the only things that we do this Christmas season. We need to help the poor and serve others. We must focus on blessing others this Christmas more than we expect to be blessed ourselves. We always need to be caring for others. Not only because Christ commands it, but also because Christ will reward it.

If we are celebrating Christ’s birth, how can we celebrate it any other way than to ‘do unto the least of these’?

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Acts 20:35

If we are serving the poor and oppressed, we can still enjoy the other stuff while at the same time being expectant of our future treasure. But when we skip over the commandments of Jesus to celebrate Christmas ‘our way’, we are being ‘of’ the world not just ‘in’ it.

Christmas can be a huge distraction from His mission. If you are like me, it doesn’t take much to distract me. Wave shiny objects in front of me and I am gone –Squirrel! So, we must see beyond the lights and the tinsel. Our focus must remain on Christ and His mission even during the Christmas season.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many   Matthew 20:28

As disciples of Christ, we put Him above all. And putting Christ above all requires that we put others above ourselves. This is how we are going to store up treasures in heaven.

As we look toward the coming holiday, how can we ‘store up treasures in heaven’ with our money, gifts and time?

child living in Mondesa slumWhat if we took what we normally spent on Christmas and gave it to the poor?
What if we gave all of our gifts to people that we will never even meet?
What if we gave gifts to orphaned children halfway across the world?
What if we gave it all to the downcast and lowly?

There are many things we can do. You don’t have to give 100% of your Christmas budget. Maybe think about what you could do without. Try giving a portion of what you normally spend on each other for Christmas to the homeless in your city . . . just a portion. And, see how God blesses you, and next year give a little more.

Here are some other ideas . . .

  • Take a portion of what you normally spend on each other and give it away instead
  • Spend part of your holiday handing out food at a bread pantry
  • Invite an elderly neighbor, or someone who doesn’t have family to Christmas dinner
  • Celebrate Christmas simply so that you can give more money to those in need
  • Hand out blankets to the homeless
  • give money to the bell ringers for The Salvation Army outside of the grocery store
  • be generous in your tipping

God, I pray, make me better than I am without You. Make me more like You. I give everything to You, Abba Father, because YOU are everything. Teach me to be humble and live a life of simplicity. Help me to separate myself from the materialistic things of this world. Change my nature to be more like yours. When people look at me, I want them to see YOU, Jesus.

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