“You can’t take it with you,” is a popular phrase that implies that when we die, we leave everything behind. It assumes we will be walking into heaven empty-handed. This is not true, at least not for all of us. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, some will be empty-handed, but others will be hauling in some pretty valuable stuff.
“For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have – Jesus Christ. Now anyone who builds on that foundation may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone’s work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value. If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builders themselves will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, and straw. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that not all of these are going to make it through fire. These materials are examples of the work we do to build upon our foundation, which is Jesus Christ himself. The assumption here is that the work that will last is what we do by faith in Christ. Other works, however good, will become brief object lessons in spontaneous combustion because they were built on our own efforts. (Perhaps we were running ahead of God’s will, or we were trying to prove something, or we were in prideful competition with others.) But it does appear that some will get into heaven with something to show for their life on earth. Gold, silver, and costly stones (what we did by faith in Christ) will turn into our reward on the other side.
Now there’s one more picture to add to this scene. In Revelation 4:9-11, John had a vision of heaven where living beings were giving glory and honor and thanks to God and they were doing this by laying crowns before his throne. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that these crowns are the same thing Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians. They are representative of the work that was done in faith – what survived the fire of judgment. This means that the one thing these people brought with them into heaven will be given back to God in praise.
It stands to reason that whatever makes it through the awards ceremony will have come from God anyway, so why not give it back? We will be so lost in wonder, love, and praise that we will not want to keep anything for ourselves.
So a crown is worth working for. (We don’t want to enter heaven empty-handed.) But once we get into heaven, we will have done our work of faith only so that we will not be left standing around with nothing to lay before him.
John Fischer resides in Southern California with his wife, Marti and son, Chandler. They also have two adult children, Christopher and Anne. John is a published author and popular speaker.
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