The cliche “people so heavenly minded they are no earthly good” often is applied to Christians, sometimes appropriately so not because it is accurate, but because Christians sometimes characterize the cliche to be true.
So then is it true Christians are expected to be ‘heavenly minded’? The answer to this is of course is “yes, this is true.” In Matthew 6:20–21, Jesus Christ Himself is quoted as saying:
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So then, guilty as charged. Christians really are expected to store their treasure in heaven. It is one thing, however, for it to be true Christians are expected to store their treasure in heaven, it is quite another to understand what it is exactly the advice or command means. How exactly are Christians expected to store their treasures in heaven?
The knee jerk interpretation by some Christians is that Christians are not to desire to become anything non-Christians can celebrate. By this interpretation, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Francis Bacon, Meric Casaubon, Joseph Glanvill, Robert Boyle etc., all of whom were Christians, all were infidel Christians, Christians who were celebrated by non-Christians. Given Constantinople, a civilization built on Christian principles was for about a thousand years (about 325 through 1453 AD) at center of innovation and progress in scientific and moral spheres, we again have that Christians have many a times being at forefront of intellectual, scientific, and moral progress. Surely, Jesus Christ founder of the Christian faith would not allow noble actions of scientific or philosophical discovery place Christians in Hell. Heaven seems more appropriate a destination for people whose discoveries enriched and continue to enrich quality of life we enjoy on earth. Without accurate mathematical calculations for escaping of gravity, and usage of gravity for descent of planes for instance, air travel would be impossible because necessary calibrations of engines would be impossible. As we readily must acknowledge any attempts at application of noble discoveries to evil purposes cannot be blamed on scientists who pursued their work with noble purposes at heart.
Having come to the conclusion that desire to be unknown by non-Christians cannot reasonably be interpretation of words of Jesus Christ, still we are left without any insights into what exactly it means for Christians to store their treasures in heaven.
A passage in Colossians 3:1–2, 5, & 12–14 sheds light on what exactly it means for Christians to store their treasures in heaven. For avoidance of doubt, the passage reads as follows (words in brackets mine in spirit of an amplified Bible passage):
Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above (on things characteristic of heaven), where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (here again the culprit statement ‘not earthly things’ implying on face of things infidelity of Issac Newton and others).
Put to death, therefore (in light of advice to set hearts in heaven and not on earth) whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, (true) humility, gentleness, patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Aha, it seems we find here an answer to the riddle. Paul makes us understand Jesus was not telling Christians not to aspire to achieve while here on earth. When Jesus says to store treasure in heaven, He means to place character development above everything else, and eschew evil character such as greed and sexual immorality. What Jesus really means then is that it was good of Isaac Newton to share his discovery with rest of humanity; that it was noble of Marie Curie to persist in worthwhile endeavors under quite ignoble working conditions; that in the aspiration to make the world a better place via his discoveries, Boyle, ‘Father of Chemistry’ put Christian beliefs into practice, into motion. The passage from Book of Colossians has added implication that a Christian ought not to aspire to make money by treating others badly, by cheating others, or by taking undue advantage of people in means of their extremities.
In aggregate, we find that the advice or command to store treasures in heaven cannot be interpreted to mean absence of desire for achievement on earth. Rather, it is first and foremost admonition to put character development first in pursuit of everyday life. Secondly, to not place desire for money, money everyone — Christians inclusive — have need for, above desire for character, to not allow love for money destroy good character in interactions with others.
Consider the following words by Apostle Paul.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother (in Jesus Christ) but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
First, Paul declares Christians are to respect other people’s choices as to how they choose to live their lives. He does not say either of Christians or non-Christians will not be judged for choices made, rather he emphasizes everyone has power of choice. So then a Christian can associate with people who do not share his or her beliefs, such as people who practice sexual immorality, so long as they do not simultaneously claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. If they claim followership of Jesus Christ, a Christian is to the best of his or her efforts to avoid such company. This of course implies knowledge based on facts, not insinuations, not careless gossip, fact, with self declaration sufficient for factualization.
Now let us be careful here. Paul is not saying a Christian should desire to be in business with a non-Christian who loves to cheat others, or desire interactions with an immoral non-Christian. What he is saying is a Christian should not seek out a perfect environment, an environment filled only with Christians for setting up a life. A Christian should desire to live within the general community, be willing to interact with non-Christians with hope they may see something in his way of life which attracts them to principles and person of Jesus Christ.
Lest the recommendation not to seek to be reclusive is to be thought of as contradictory to establishment of civilization centered around Constantinople, note Constantinople became a civilization exactly because so long as civil laws were obeyed, people from all walks of life could interact with the city. It is well established that Russian Christian Orthodoxy grew out of interactions of Russians with Constantinople. It also is well established that some Muslims upgraded their knowledge and practice of Mathematics via interactions with citizens of Constantinople.
No city becomes center of a civilization if it is not open to interactions with neighboring cities or societies.
At end of the day, the point of the matter is, Jesus Christ never advocated for his followers to seek out lives of ignominy on earth. Quite the contrary, he urged that they let their lights shine for all the world to see (Matthew 5:14–16). How exactly are Christians to shine a light out into the world if they live in seclusion from everyone who holds different beliefs, from everyone who lives differently? Not likely for Christian lights to be seen if Christians only associate with one another.
In the everyday decision to live right, to demonstrate good character, to resist cheating someone else, Christians place their treasures in heaven. We have then that Christians create treasure in heaven in midst of activities such as writing blogs, writing of research articles, creation of new engineering products, teaching of classes in schools, engagement with scientific discoveries, praying, reading, eating right, in midst of forgiveness for wrongs, tolerance for differences, and celebration of noble achievements, this regardless of religion of an achiever.
Whenever Christians demonstrate good character in course of activities on earth, they simultaneously create treasure in heaven. Treasure created in heaven coats treasure created on earth with shades of gold, value of diamonds, strength of paladium, platinum, and polonium, and life giving force of water and oxygen. In the simultaneous creation of treasure in heaven and on earth, Christians eat the proverbial cake yet continue to have it. After all, is this not how Jesus fed 5,000 men (only men were counted back in those ancient times), excluding women and children with five loaves and two fish? Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish, created a spiritual oven such that in the pulling of the loaves or breaking of the fish with both hands, the piece remaining with His disciples remained exactly the same length as before the breaking up into two pieces. Could Jesus not have done this without asking for something from the crowd? Absolutely. In the request for something from the crowd Jesus demonstrated He and His Father are interested in partnership with earth, not in lording it over people, miracles inclusive. Jesus wanted the people to feel they were part of the miracle, not merely recipients of it. So then storing of treasure in heaven commences with participation in meaningful activities on earth, activities enriched with character, with outcome they simultaneously create treasure in heaven.
We find then Christians are supposed to be so heavenly minded, they get so busy on earth with meaningful activities, the second coming of Jesus Christ catches them by surprise. But Jesus promised this to His disciples (Matthew 25:13). You see it is not those who are surprised who are not taken with Jesus at His second coming, rather it is those who are not prepared. Those who are surprised are so busy doing good, they are surprised at showing up of Jesus Christ for taking them to heaven for a wee little bit. The journey to and sojourn in heaven is much like a honeymoon. The rest of life, lived here on earth. The best way to prepare for second coming of Jesus Christ? Storing up of treasure in heaven.
By the way, if you believe second coming of Jesus Christ to be a fable or a lie, I’d like to hear your proof of it. If the second coming of Jesus Christ cannot be proved to be a fable or a lie it resides in realm of beliefs. If the reality of the second coming of Jesus Christ cannot be disproved, lack of capacity for proof of falsity implies it cannot be stupid to believe it is possible, feasible, in realm of what remains feasible.
The more reliable test of rationality is “why believe?”
So why believe? I believe because Jesus Christ promises Utopia on better terms than science promises — utopia devoid of programming, utopia within which we are able to maintain our senses, our wits about us. If only for this reason, regardless of arrival in my lifetime or otherwise, belief in second coming of Jesus Christ makes sense.
What is there not to like I ask about an Utopia within which we do not have to become robots devoid of emotion to live in a world devoid of sin, evil, wickedness, tears, a world filled with love, serenity, peace, joy, right living, productive restful lifestyles. No more 8 to 5s. Work has meaning for life not for making a living. We work because we love to, not to make a living. And there is no master scientist providing food during lunch break in a canteen within which no one is allowed to show emotion, an utopia of slavery. In some attempts at utopia, you get a demerit point which gets you in trouble if you only eat with people in the same work unit or at similar staff level as yourself, and this after paying for your own food. An utopia devoid of any meaningfulness.
Is it who you sit at table with or how you treat people at same table as yourself that is of any moral value in life?
In Jesus’ utopia, food is available to everyone, everywhere. At the very least there is the tree of life out in the open, available to everyone who makes it into Jesus’ reign. And there is the water of life flowing right through the city from which everyone can drink. No sentries stationed along the course of the river, no guards preventing people from access to the tree except from 12.00 noon through 1.30 pm, with gates closed at 1.15 pm. The difference? The right to the fruit or water has nothing to do with showing up anywhere for work. The right exists because you are there, because you lived right while on the old earth, because you are so disciplined you eat only what you need in the new earth. Not that there ever will be any shortages.
What exactly is stupid about hoping, believing Jesus’ promise of return to earth for creation of a meaningful, mindful, sensible utopia right here on an earth made new is true, worth believing? If Jesus’ claim that He can help us live right have been proved to be true, and they have, there is credibility to belief His promise of a second coming resides in realm of credibility.
But then again, I digress.