What does the Bible say about things with true eternal value?
What we value determines what we do. Not just what we do as a profession, but every action and thought. The world has its own ideas about what is valuable: money/possessions, status/power, security/comfort, and legacy. But as the world defines these things, they are not transferable to eternity. As the old saying goes, "You can't take it with you."
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Things with eternal value are, by definition, valuable forever. Our time on earth is very short, but what we do here will affect our condition in eternity. In that never-ending life, we will either be tormented in hell, or enjoying God's New Heaven and New Earth. The things of this world will pass away (1 John 2:17). The only things of this world that will last are people and God.
God's Great Commandment reflects this: love God, love people (Matthew 22:34-40). Only God and people have eternal value. Our actions and efforts, then, should be motivated by the effort to love God and people. How does this compare with the world?
Money/possessions: Wealth is fleeting; we will not maintain our earthly socio-economic class in eternity. Our money, then, must be subservient to the Great Commandment—how can we use money to love and worship God? Help people? How does money get in the way of loving God and others? How does God want each one of us as individuals to use money to honor Him? Money can make it hard to follow Christ (Mark 10:23), but it can also be used to serve others (Acts 9:36).
Status/power: Worldly respect and power has been coveted by men since Lamech in Genesis 4. It makes us feel validated when others affirm our worth. God's view of respect is different. We should strive to earn others' respect only insofar as it brings glory to God and draws others to Him. We are to live in peace with others (Romans 12:18) because it's healthy for the church. As a child, Jesus "increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52) because he honored God, not for the purposes of controlling people.
Education/knowledge: Throughout the Bible, passages highlight the importance of education. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is dedicated to contemplating God's law. God, Himself, gave Solomon wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-12), and Daniel and his friends "learning and skill in all literature and wisdom" (Daniel 1:17). Knowledge of the law was part of Paul's pedigree of accomplishments (Philippians 3:5). But Jesus, Solomon, and Daniel knew that wisdom was useless unless it was used in the service of God. Before his conversion, Paul used his knowledge to persecute Christians. After, he considered his knowledge rubbish "because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). Knowledge and education are good only if used for eternal purposes.
Security/comfort: Our desires for safety and ease, like other worldly things, are not necessarily bad. The Old Testament shows that such things are blessings. But in the church age, we're called to postpone these longings for just a little while. Several places in the New Testament (John 15:18-19; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:3-4) say that Christians should expect to be persecuted. But that persecution is directly connected with things of eternal value. In fact, Jesus said that the fact we are persecuted shows that we value eternity (John 15:18-19). We cannot be perfectly safe in this world; God does not promise to protect us or our families from harm. But if harm comes because we had the integrity to love God and others, it is "a gracious thing in the sight of God" (1 Peter 2:20).
Legacy: The closest we can come to things of eternal value on earth is our legacy—our influence on the world that lasts after we die. But even this is fleeting. Solomon built a mighty temple that was destroyed within hundreds of years. The Bible does give examples of eternal, spiritual legacies: an act of worship to Christ (Matthew 26:6-13), the people we reach (2 Corinthians 3:2-3), sincere faith that inspires others (2 Timothy 1:5).
The only things we will be able to take to eternity are our relationship with God and the people we reached with the gospel. Things on this earth are merely tools we use to prepare for eternity. If we can remember this, we will gather things of eternal value. It is our witness, not our wealth, that will matter.
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