During his lifetime, Alexander conquered more land than anyone who had ever lived before, and he amassed more wealth than he would ever need or be able to use. When he was near death he gave specific orders for his burial; though the custom was to have the hands covered, Alexander wanted his to be empty and protruding outside the casket. His reason for such unusual directions was to demonstrate that he was departing this world with nothing in his hands, in spite of all he had accumulated. Alexander the Great understood that material possessions, earthly accomplishments and power mean nothing when you’re dead. I have heard it said another way: “You won’t see a hearse pulling a U-haul.”
Intellectually, we know this truth, yet we fail to let it impact the way we work and invest our time, energy, resources and relationships. There is plenty of evidence to prove that our identity is wrapped up in what we own, drive and wear and how we “play.” Image-consciousness pushes us to spend money and effort for things that won’t matter in the end. Isaiah was talking about it thousands of years ago: “Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2). Centuries later, Jesus presented a remedy for this human imperfection: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21).
This powerful passage cuts through all the debate about how much fortune is “enough” in terms of wealth. Like Alexander’s protruding hands demonstrated, there is little value in investments that accumulate material possessions that are constrained to this Earth-the ROI (return on investment) is poor and no wise investor would go with it! However, the “deal of eternity” is here for the taking. We can invest our earthly lives (which typically max out at 75 to 80 years) in developing and populating the coming kingdom of God, where we enjoy our heavenly lives (that will never end) with Him and uncountable others from all nations and generations. Try calculating that ROI!
Why in the world wouldn’t we take advantage of such a prospect? Why wouldn’t we employ the sound investment strategy spelled out in the Gospel of Matthew? There are a multitude of reasons, but two really jump out at me: 1) we aren’t really sure what heavenly fortune looks like. We understand the comforts that earthly possessions bring, and can strongly defend our God-given right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and 2) we fail to choose the Matthew Investment Strategy because of simple denial. Every day, men and women in the marketplace go to work failing to recognize the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal. We are a people who can buy a home theater system with no money down and no interest for 24 months and then remain happily mesmerized until we wake up two years later. Wake us up, Lord!
True wealth is sent to Heaven as we employ our time, skills, money and influence to contribute toward God’s purposes. That can include anything from taking the time to encourage someone who is hurting, to volunteering at a homeless shelter, mentoring an at-risk youth, inviting an immigrant or refugee into your home, teaching children at your church, or giving money to a “kingdom cause” . . . and of course it includes doing your job every day with excellence and ethics that point people of God.
Think and pray about this for a few days-and while you’re at it, consider the words of Grandpa Vanderhoff in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “You Can’t Take it With You”, written during the Depression: “Maybe it’ll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use. You can’t take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.” Another encouraging thought as we spur each other on and invest our lives together!