When Jesus tells us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20), it’s easy for us to imagine something like a bank: we do good things here on earth that get entered on a ledger in heaven, just as money deposited in the bank appears as a credit on our account. However, this analogy poses the question of what currency we are depositing in heaven. We often imagine that we build our heavenly accounts through daily prayers and participation in Sunday worship and other church events.
However, both Jesus and the Hebrew prophets make it clear that God does not accept such deposits when they are juxtaposed with evil doings. Jesus pronounces woe to the scribes and Pharisees who observe all the holy days, offer all the prayers, and tithe to the Temple but neglect justice and mercy (Matthew 23). The prophets declare that God rejects the worship of those who fail to do good and rescue the oppressed (Isaiah 1:10-17, Amos 5:21-24).
So our deposits in heaven must be more than just prayer and worship; they must include good deeds for the needy and justice for the oppressed. We make deposits not only by directing our attention to God in heaven but by ministering to Christ on earth, who we see in the stranger, the prisoner, the sick, and the hungry, among others of the least of these (Matthew 25:31-46).
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The currency of heaven is love, which loses its value if we store it away in a vault. Love remains love only when it is shared through loving words and deeds. We make a deposit in heaven every time we keep this currency circulating on earth, not only loving God in prayer and worship but loving our neighbors by offering our material assistance to the poor, our resistance to oppression, and our presence with those who need to know love.
We struggle to keep love circulating when our “hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15) because we pray but do not act to prevent the violent killing of our neighbors, the imprisonment of children, or the ways climate change makes life even harder for the poor. So let us strive to wash our hands of such evils, learn to do good, and store up treasure in heaven by sharing love on earth.