By Dr. Harold Sala
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
When you help people without any thought of what you get out of it, you are investing in heaven’s bank–“laying up treasure in heaven” is the way Paul put it. One of the reasons we invest so little in the currency of heaven is that heaven is out of sight. We want dividends now, not later. Neither do we make a connection in our thinking between investing in the lives of people here and getting credit in the bank of heaven.
Jim Towey learned that when he had several days for a stopover in Calcutta. He had always wanted to meet Mother Teresa, so U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, the man he worked for, arranged for him to meet Mother Teresa, who was then seventy-five years of age. In the course of their brief meeting she asked, “Have you seen our Home of the Dying?” He had not, so she arranged for him to visit there in the afternoon.
Upon his arrival, he met with the director, Sister Luke, and mentioned that he was there because he had met with Sister Teresa in the morning, and he was there to see the work. Disregarding his white shirt, starched collar and tie, she handed him some cotton swabs and a bottle of disinfectant. “Here,” she said, “go clean the man in bed forty-six with scabies.”
Telling of his unexpected encounter with a dying man, Jim says, “There wasn’t the slightest bit of me that wanted to touch anybody sick and dying.” He expected to be taken through the home as a VIP–as a spectator–then leave some money and walk away from the unpleasant sights he viewed. But Jim was much too proud to refuse, so he found bed forty-six and cleaned the dying man whose flesh was infected.
What happened? That experience changed his life and his outlook on the suffering of humanity. Jim eventually invested his entire life in the currency of heaven.
He gave up a lucrative career to touch the lives of the hurting and suffering.
When we do what Jesus did, we are investing in the bank of heaven. And what did He do? He healed people. He taught. He forgave others. He fed people spiritually and physically. He ministered to the sick and dying. He lifted up the neglected and fallen—the throwaway people of society whom we prefer to ignore rather than to touch. He washed the feet of the disciples, and He gave hope to hopeless people.
Investing in the bank of heaven goes far beyond dropping some money in the collection plate at church or mailing that business reply envelope back with a check to your favorite charity.
Jim Towey learned what Mother Teresa already knew that the greatest satisfaction in life comes through serving others, not in satisfying the desires of the flesh. Included in our focus should be the hungry and homeless, the orphans and widows, those who are incarcerated, immigrants and people who just don’t quite fit into society–the sick and afflicted, and the throwaways of society–the wretched individuals who are dirty and downcast, the losers of life who make us uncomfortable.
Telling of that incident in Calcutta which was a life-changing experience, cleaning the scabies on the man in bed forty-six, Jim Towey says that he saw Jesus in this distressing disguise of the poor, using the phrase Mother Teresa used so often.
Yes, Christian ministry is made possible by the gifts of God’s people. Nothing wrong with that. But going far beyond that, touch someone whom you would prefer not to touch; when you do, you are laying up treasure in heaven.
Resource reading: Matthew 25:31-46