For a while now I have been wanting to read something by Randy Alcorn. Over the years I’ve heard several quotes by him from David Platt that struck my interest. Although it wasn’t until I read Tim Challies’s glowing review of The Treasure Principle1 that I finally picked up one of his books. The book is a short and easy read but well worth it.
In the book, Alcorn uses Scripture to try to get Christians to refocus on what really matters and to start storing up treasures in heaven, particularly by giving. The principle is: you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. He develops six principles within it which are:
#1 – God owns everything. I’m His money manager.
#2 – My heart always goes where I put God’s money.
#3 – Heaven and the future New Earth, not this fallen Earth, is my home.
#4 – I should live not for the dot but for the line. (Earth is the dot, Heaven is the line)
#5 – Giving is the only antidote to materialism.
#6 – God prospers me not to raise my standard of living but to raise my standard of giving.
Alcorn makes the important distinction that we are not saved by our giving but are saved to giving. Our salvation is a free gift. (Romans 3:23-24) He also argues against the idea that it is wrong for a Christian to seek to get a reward. This is a difficult concept to grasp as it can easily be corrupted, yet it is certainly Biblical. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is very clear that the problem is not seeking a reward but who you are seeking a reward from, God or man?
One of the most interesting points that Alcorn makes is that when we seek to build up treasures in heaven it can have a great positive affect in how we face death. Obviously our primary hope when we think of death is the joy of the Gospel and the confidence we have due to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:3-4) We look forward to the day when we are with Him in glory and we have confidence because He is our righteousness and He has conquered death for us.
However, by Jesus’s own teachings, where our treasure is, our heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21) It should go without saying that Jesus is our ultimate treasure, but the context of this passage and all of chapter 6 in Matthew is about working to receive rewards in heaven. There are many places in Scripture that encourage us to build up treasure in heaven. Even in Hebrews 11:6 we are told that “he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Did you catch that? I know I sure have a hard time with this. When we come to God we must believe not only that He is but that He also rewards. Working to earn your salvation is sinful, working to build up treasures in heaven, as a response to what God has done for you, and your longing for a better kingdom, is Biblical.
Alcorn tells a story about John Wesley visiting a very rich man’s estate. When asked his thoughts about the property, Wesley replied “I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this.” This man had so much treasure on earth that it would be difficult for any man to part with it easily. The more we have on this present earth the harder it is to live for and long for our better kingdom which we are citizens of! (Philippians 3:20) Can you be a Christian and own many things? Yes. (I Timothy 6:17) Will seeking to invest more and more in a heavenly reward make facing death easier? I think the answer is a resounding yes.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Where are we building our treasure? Is it in our finances? Is it our dream home? Our retirement? Our material collections? What about nonmaterial things? Are we building treasures in the amount of vacations we take? Or even in the memories we make? How much are we focusing on “storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” (Matthew 6:20) The Gospel is so radical that Jesus not only pays a debt we could never pay (Colossians 2:14) but He “frees us from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14) and God rewards us for our service! Is His grace not unfathomable?
As extremely wealthy Westerners we all could use a little work in learning how to redirect where we store our treasures. The giving statistics for the average American Christian are very low. (2-3%) The first Century Macedonian church would make us blush by comparison. Listen to how the Apostle Paul describes their giving, “the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.” (II Corinthians 8:1-4) The American Church needs to soak themselves in these verses and be humbled by them. These Christians understood grace. In their deep poverty and affliction they were begging to give beyond their ability. In the American Church’s wealth and luxury we are masters of excuses to keep our pockets full. Let’s all look to the cross, look to our King, remember our condition apart from His blood, be moved by the grace of God and let us start, little by little, redefining how we think about giving and start exchanging our temporal treasure for a treasure that will never fade.
I’d like to end this blog with a couple of quotes within The Treasure Principle that I thought were powerful, as well as leave a link to a song by spoken word artist Propaganda as he speaks on aspects of this issue in a powerful and poetic way.
“Giving isn’t a luxury of the rich. It’s a joyous privilege of the poor.” (31)
“We think we own our possessions, but too often they own us.” (55)
“Pilgrims travel light.” (p. 55)
“Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.” (A.W. Tozer, 58)
“Tithing isn’t the ceiling of giving; it’s the floor.” (65)
“Let’s give generously for God’s glory, peoples good, and our gladness.” (121)
“Hearts transformed by the grace of Jesus trust God more, love others more, and therefore give more.” (121)
“To say Christ is the main treasure we seek is absolutely true. To say He is the only treasure is false, since He Himself told us to store up treasures in Heaven.” (133)
Propaganda – Healthy Don’t Need Doctors “How silly we must look to the rest of the planet, like swimming in the ocean praying for rain. Like standing in the middle of grocery stores, starving.”