Laying Up Treasure in Invisible Places: How to Live Life Jesus’s Way

Laying Up Treasure in Invisible Places: How to Live Life Jesus’s Way

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

In September of 2014 my heart suddenly stopped beating in a parking lot. I never expected cardiac arrest to become a part of my personal story, my defining story, but there it is. I was 31 years old.

Near-death experiences afford one an interesting chance to get up a little higher than the norm and evaluate life. When things are so suddenly nearly over, you get maybe a clearer perspective on those things—on the stuff of your life, such as it has been.

When I woke up in the hospital sometime after the parking lot, without any memory of what had happened but unmistakably filled with grace, I was mostly aware of this:

I had no regrets at all.

A little background is probably in order at this point …

My Life …

I do not live a conventional life. I never have. At 31, I didn’t wake up into what would be normal for most people.

Before I expound on that, I want to make the point that the details of my life are not important. The specific choices I made or didn’t make are irrelevant. You could do the exact opposite of all of them and still be laying up treasures in heaven. In all honesty, I don’t really recommend my path.

(Unless of course you know God is calling you to it. Then jump in; the water’s fine.)

I have no formal education at all. I don’t have a stable career or a normal job. I never have had either. I had freelance clients in a self-taught field, and I worked when I wasn’t on the road with a performing arts ministry I had started with one of my closest friends seven years earlier.

That ministry (since renamed 1:11 Ministries) had no funding, no organizational backing, and no accomplishments of clear and obvious consequence. We just traveled around and shared our hearts with people through the arts and through speaking.

I’m not married. I’ve had one boyfriend, when I was 18. I don’t date.

I own a house today, but in September of 2014 I lived in a bedroom with some relatives. The sum total of my personal assets were a Dodge Neon with nearly 300,000 kilometres on it, half a closet’s worth of clothes, some hiking gear, a guitar, and enough books to fill four or five bookshelves.

Again, let me be clear: I’m not recommending my lifestyle, nor am I knocking anyone who has a job, a degree, a husband or wife, children, and/or material blessings.

All of those things are good gifts from God—wonderful gifts from our Father. They make the world go around. They build the kingdom of God. The details don’t matter. Our relationship to them does.

On the outside my life didn’t (and probably still doesn’t) make a lot of sense. I’ve been blessed with really supportive family and friends … I am insanely rich in relationships … but even they have not always understood some of the things I’ve chosen to do or not do.

And sometimes I have wondered if I’m actually kinda crazy. Or in denial about a lot of really important things in life. Or just lazy.

But I woke up with no regrets. Zero. Of course I’ve done things I wish I hadn’t done—I’m a sinner. But I’m forgiven, and I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the general trajectory of my life, the path I’d been following, the way I had built everything in my life around what was truly important to me.

Which was Jesus.

Some of my life decisions, I have made with fear and trembling. With a lot of doubt. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m self-deceived.

But I didn’t regret any of them, after I died and came back. I was relieved to discover that.

How to Live with No Regrets

This blog post took me a long time to write, because Jesus says things that sound so simple but then turn out to be really hard to grasp. “Collect treasures in heaven.” Okay … how? What does that even mean?

I flopped around on this question for weeks. Does it mean “soul winning”—leading people to Jesus so they’ll be in heaven when you get there? I’ve often heard that interpretation. Does it mean valuing relationships with people?—they are eternal, after all, and pretty much nothing else on this earth is.

Then I made the connection to my hospital story, and I thought, I can share that. Because it’s about treasure in heaven, even if I don’t have all the answers. It’s treasure in heaven that means we can live a weird, insecure, nonconformist life, and have no regrets.

And it’s treasure in heaven that means we can live a mainstream, “secure,” ordinary life, and have no regrets there either.

It’s all about your heart—where it is, what matters to you, who you love.

It’s about treasuring Jesus. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

How to Collect Treasure in Heaven

It’s pretty obvious that as Christians, we need to reject materialism. That’s not the same thing as rejecting material, by the way—good luck with that if you try it, and anyway, God likes material. He made the whole world out of it and gave it to us as a gift.

But we’re not supposed to give our hearts to stuff. If we do, they end up rotting and rusting and getting stolen and broken just like the stuff itself.

That’s fairly obvious. But how do we go beyond that and store up treasure in heaven?

If you’ve been following this series, you probably know that I don’t think we should read “heaven,” most of the time, as referring to the afterlife or to an ethereal place we will go when we die.

I believe that when the Bible says “heaven,” it is referring to the spiritual realm: the invisible, intangible, but at-base-of-everything realm where God reigns and where we are currently citizens, seated in heavenly places with Christ (Philippians 3:21, Ephesians 2:6).

So to collect treasure in heaven is to value and treasure spiritual things, holy things, eternal things. It is to make our decisions and order our lives by that value system. Most of all, it is to treasure God himself.

When we do, the wood, hay, and stubble of our lives somehow turns to gold, silver, and precious stones. Love for God infuses absolutely everything with meaning—and it puts material things into their place, as gifts, never to be confused with the Giver.

Living Like Jesus

This is how Jesus lived. He treasured his Father above all things. He lived on every word his Father spoke, in the Scriptures and by the Spirit. Within his love for the Father, he loved his people, his sheep—his disciples and the masses alike.

He enjoyed creation. He ate and drank with gusto. He bossed the wind and walked on waves. He consecrated bread and wine, and in the resurrection he brought heaven and earth into one. But always his treasures were heavenly.

I woke from “sudden cardiac death” (that’s the medical term) without regrets because as odd as my life has been, I’ve tried to live it treasuring Jesus.

Can I be vulnerable here? I experienced a sense of disappointment and even grief when I realized how close I’d been to the “other side.” I felt like I had been living my life in a conversation, and I’d come just moments away from waking up into all the answers … into the company I love the most and everything I have spent a lifetime seeking.

I think maybe, just maybe, that’s what laying up treasure in heaven means.

I don’t usually get this personal on the blog, and I am not saying any of this to make a big deal out of myself. I say it because I want you to know: what Jesus says is true.

If you give your heart to material things, it will be lost to you.

If you store your heart up in heaven, in Jesus himself, you will find it. You will discover greater depths of love and joy at every turn. And you will live, in the final analysis, without regret.

Your heart can never be lost if Jesus holds it.

(This is Part 70 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)




3 responses to “Laying Up Treasure in Invisible Places: How to Live Life Jesus’s Way”

  1. Ellen Avatar

    This was amazing.

  2. Michele Z Avatar
    Michele Z

    I’m glad you got personal and shared your story here because I can relate so much and it’s such a blessed reminder as I prepare for a summer in America. I’m 47, also single and no boyfriends since 18. I’ve been overseas almost my whole adult life and I don’t have thousands of converts or new churches to show for it. I have learned to measure my age by where my college friends are- We are now at the ‘kids-are-getting-married-first-grandchildren-coming’ stage. I have lived on partner support since college and have no idea how to actually adult in America.
    For me, it was not waking up from a near-death experience, but facing the real possibility of an imminent death in a 7.8 earthquake two years ago. I asked Jesus, “Am I ready to die?” And the unbelievable peace that filled me when I recognized that I was abiding in Him, and was going to continue to do so and actually see His face in a minute! No regrets, and as the earth continued to shake for months afterwards and geologists warned that we could not rule out another big one any time, the idea of treasure in heaven became so real, living every moment abiding in Him and treasuring Him. (Sorry this is so long, but this post was so encouraging, and I somehow really wanted to share why)! 🙂

    1. Rachel Thomson Avatar
      Rachel Thomson

      Thanks so much for sharing that, Michele! I’m mutually encouraged :). So many of us walking so many roads, but all toward Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *