I remember years ago hearing sermons about storing up Heavenly treasure and finding it very motivational, particularly when my own earthly treasures were pretty slim. Today, as a psychotherapist, I often encounter clients who have concerns about their Heavenly mansion and want to make sure they hear “well done” when they arrive at the pearly gates.
I think it must have been a mile stone moment in my own recovery from perfectionism when it dawned on me that I might not really care about my mansion or treasure- I was going to be in Heaven! I don’t want to debate theology. I’m not going to give you a biblical argument. There are paradoxes in scripture; there are things that just seem unexplainable to me. I don’t sweat them as much as I used to, sometimes they just intrigue me and inspire me. I have some ideas about how those passages about accumulating things in Heaven could be interpreted, but I’m not going to share them. Mostly because my conclusions didn’t come out of theological study so anything I did after this point would just be searching for a way to prove my point. I’m not an expert on theology, bible study or the original languages, but I do know something about dysfunctional behavior and human psychology.
In my world, I’ve found that what people say they believe really isn’t that important. It’s the beliefs that they are living out of. These beliefs are sometimes conscious but often unconscious and the evidence of their existence is the choices people make and the things they gravitate toward. My conclusions on this issue come mostly from my observations and experiences with the sin and dysfunction that comes from being motivated by Heavenly treasure rather than love (and the difficulty of trying to do both).
The Argument- Do I care?
Let’s start with the argument- can I really be unhappy or jealous in Heaven? Am I really going to be looking at my neighbor’s mansion and rethinking my life choices? Does Heaven even work under the same economy that earth (America) operates under?
Think about it. In order for this to really matter I need to believe that I will somehow spend eternity wishing I did more to have a bigger “mansion.” Or an eternity ridden with sadness over all the good deeds I could have done.
You could argue that there is a momentary feeling of loss when I “arrive” but again if its momentary and I go on to an eternity of being whole and in the presence of God do I really care?
In order for this to be any kind of motivation I would have to experience some kind of let down for eternity. Some would have to be happier and more content than others, otherwise it simply wouldn’t matter. If I can enjoy my small “mansion” as much as your big one, what difference does it make?
Does it Matter?
A great question to ask in any debate- does it matter? I’m not being snarky with this statement. I love intellectual debates but what often causes people to argue to the point of insanity is not the point itself but some underlying fears that may or may not be true.
For some, the fear is that if we aren’t working toward a “Well done, good and faithful servant” pat on the back then we won’t be serving God. I know back in college I used the fear that people would go to hell without me to motivate myself outside my social anxiety and evangelize (not a great popularity move, increased anxiety, etc…). But the underlying premise of this concern is so dangerous! That love is not a strong enough motivation! That we need to seek approval or amass heavenly riches to do the right thing really short changes God and us.
I actually do think it matters because I have worked with hundreds of Christians whose worth comes from performance and it prevents them from truly receiving God’s grace and unconditional love. It evolves into anxiety, depression and a whole host of other things. The notion of accumulating Heavenly wealth and getting claps on the back from God would keep many of these people on the performance treadmill.