by Lois Tverberg
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
(This story was adapted from a rabbinic parable.)
Once upon a time there was an old pastor who had served the Lord faithfully all of his life. He had an anointed ministry, and people found his prayers were powerful and effective. When he prayed for the sick, they often were healed. But with all of that, he was extremely poor, and he and his wife struggled daily to get by on almost nothing.
One day when they were out walking, after they had seen yet another person healed, his wife said to him, “God certainly must have prepared a rich reward for all of your years of work when you get to heaven, and he always seems to listens to your prayers. Why don’t you ask the Lord to give us just a tiny bit of your heavenly reward here on earth so that we don’t have to live in such terrible poverty?” The pastor thought this was a good idea, so right there the two of them asked the Lord to let them have a little something from what God prepared for them early, while they were still alive.
Immediately the sky opened above them, and a table leg made out of gold fell to earth right in front of them. They rejoiced and thought of all the things they could buy with this gift from God. The next morning, the pastor looked very troubled and his wife asked him what was wrong. The pastor said, “Last night I had a dream that we were sitting at a great banquet in heaven, and every family had its own table to sit around. But ours was missing a leg so that it tilted and wobbled terribly!” His wife sat down and considered this a long time. She finally said, “In that case, we must go quickly and ask the Lord to take back the gift he gave us yesterday.”
They prayed, and immediately the heavens opened, and the table leg rose back up into heaven. And this was the greatest answer to prayer of all.*
(I saw the point of this parable after I became friends with some pastors in Uganda who live in great poverty but have wonderful ministries. Where I live, there are many who do similar good work, but have a comfortable, prosperous life here in America. After seeing all the trials that my poorer friends go through, I think, personally, that the Lord will reward them for all the things they lived without in order to serve him.)
*Adapted from “The Two Legged Table” from the book Theology in Rabbinic Stories by Chiam Pearl, Hendrickson, 1997