This question was answered a few months ago by Karen Coleman, an EPM staff member now with Jesus. I appreciate her response. As I shared in our tribute to Karen, she is truly one of my heroes. —Randy Alcorn
Question from reader:
I’m reading Managing God's Money and my question is related to storing up treasures in Heaven. I’m an American and compared to the rest of the world, I’m very, very rich. However, if I were dirt poor and reading your book, wouldn’t it be discouraging, since I’d have no way to accumulate heavenly treasures? If some Christians have the ability to store up treasures and others don’t, will some believers have 10,000 square foot houses in Heaven and others have cardboard boxes in the ghetto? This makes it seem like there will continue to be haves and have-nots in eternity.
Answer from Karen Coleman:
Randy wrote: “Studying Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, the poor widow, and other Bible characters reveals that how we handle money is an accurate index of our spiritual lives. This is true of all people in all ages [emphasis added]. But it’s particularly true for most readers of this book, since we live in a place and time when what our government calls the ‘poverty level’ far exceeds the average standard of living of nearly every other society in human history, past and present.”
So although the target audience for Randy’s books about money and giving is usually those far above the U.S. poverty line, God has never excluded the poor of the world from earning eternal rewards in other ways.
Randy cites Ephesians 2:10, which says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has prepared a lifetime of good works for us to do. According to Jesus, “even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” (Matthew 10:42) will gain God’s reward.
Randy explains in The Treasure Principle that it is not only financial giving we are rewarded for. “God will also give us eternal rewards for doing good works (Ephesians 6:8; Romans 2:6, 10), persevering under persecution (Luke 6:22–23), showing compassion to the needy (Luke 14:13–14), and treating our enemies kindly (Luke 6:35).” Rich and poor alike are able to participate in these things.
Randy says this in Managing God’s Money:
What does it mean to give beyond our ability? It means to push our giving past the point where the figures add up. It means to give away not just the luxuries but also some of the necessities. It means living with the faith of the poor widow Jesus commended to his disciples (Mark 12:41‑44).
The Macedonian Christians were dirt poor [emphasis added], yet when they heard of needy people in Jerusalem, “they gave according to their means . . . and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3‑4, ESV). When told they were too poor to give, they begged for the privilege of helping out! For most of us, giving according to our means would stretch us. Giving beyond our means would stretch us or even appear to break us. But it won’t—because we know God is faithful.
So we see it is possible for very poor people to give financially, and they will surely be rewarded for it.
In the context of encouraging believers towards great generosity, Paul spoke these words to the church in Corinth: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians, 8:9). Jesus went from riches to rags to make His people rich. Since Jesus never promised the eradication of poverty on Earth, surely every aspect of this richness will have its perfect fulfillment in Heaven. I think it’s safe to say there will be no ghettoes on the New Earth.
To understand the differences that will exist in Heaven, Randy explains it this way:
Because God promises to reward people differently according to their differing levels of faithfulness in this life, we should not expect equality of possessions and positions in Heaven… Scripture is clear that we’ll have different rewards and positions in Heaven, according to our faithful service in this life. Since everyone will be happy, what could be the nature of these differences? Jonathan Edwards said, “The saints are like so many vessels of different sizes cast into a sea of happiness where every vessel is full: this is eternal life, for a man ever to have his capacity filled. But after all ’tis left to God’s sovereign pleasure, ’tis his prerogative to determine the largeness of the vessel.” …A pint jar and a quart jar can both be full, but the larger jar contains more. Likewise, in Heaven all of us will be full of joy, but some may have a larger capacity for joy, having been stretched through their dependence on God in this life. John Bunyan said it well: “He who is most in the bosom of God, and who so acts for him here, he is the man who will be best able to enjoy most of God in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus did not fault people for being rich. He did fault them for idolizing those riches to the neglect of the important things. A poor person could have a heart just like the rich ruler (Matthew 19:16-30) and love what little he has more than he loves Christ, thus losing out on his reward. Ultimately it’s a heart matter.
We have the picture of our generous Heavenly Father in Matthew 20:1-16. The vineyard owner had his own way of paying back his workers which did not make sense or seem fair to all of them. God is the one who places the value on what we do. He sees and knows our hearts. In His infinite justice, He will not penalize in Heaven those who were poor on this earth because they gave less money to God’s work than those who were rich in this life. Many things in God’s economy appear upside down to our eyes!
For some additional thoughts, check out these resources:
Does Giving Time or Goods Instead of Money Earn the Same Eternal Reward?
Can We Really Earn Eternal Rewards?
How can we store up treasures in heaven? (from Gotquestions.org)
I hope these things are helpful to you. May God bless you as you continue to study His Word.
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
Karen Coleman served as a ministry assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries for three and a half years. She spent 23 years in Cameroon, West Africa involved in Bible translation and missionary care. Before going to Africa and before EPM began, she served as Randy’s assistant when he was a pastor. In June 2018, Karen went to be with Jesus.