Now and then someone will protest that Christians are so concerned with heaven that they neglect earthly priorities—social justice, the needs of the poor and oppressed, health care for the disenfranchised and underprivileged, and so on. That charge ignores the fact that Christians have always led the way in matters of public welfare, the building of hospitals, emergency relief work, and other expressions of human compassion. Charity work always flourishes where the gospel is boldly proclaimed.
But the argument that earthly relief should take priority over spiritual salvation is not a Christian perspective. Jesus summed up the proper order of priorities clearly with the familiar command, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
In reality, everything that is truly precious to us as Christians is in heaven.
The Father is there, and that’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus Himself is at the Father’s right hand. Hebrews 9:24 says, “Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” So our Savior is also in heaven, where He intercedes on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25).
Many brothers and sisters in Christ are there, too. Hebrews 12:22-24 says that in turning to God we have
come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.
Our departed loved ones in the faith are there with Christ and with the Father. Every Old and New Testament believer who has died is now in heaven.
Our names are recorded there. In Luke 10:20 Christ tells His disciples, who were casting out demons, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” And by saying that our names are written in heaven, Christ assures us that we have a title deed to property there. This is our inheritance. First Peter 1:4 says we are begotten in Christ to “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
“Our citizenship is in heaven,” according to Philippians 3:20. In other words, heaven is where we belong. We’re just “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Our goals therefore should not include the accumulation of material possessions here. Our real wealth—our eternal reward—is in heaven (Matthew 5:12). In Matthew 6:19–21 Jesus says that the only treasure we will possess throughout eternity is there.
In other words, everything we should love everlastingly, everything we rightly value, everything of any eternal worth is in heaven.
That’s why self-indulgence and materialism foster a worldly atmosphere that has a particularly destructive spiritual bent. It undermines everything the church should stand for. It tears Christians away from their heavenly moorings. And it makes them worldly.
The term worldliness almost sounds outdated, doesn’t it? Many people think it sounds petty, legalistic, and unnecessarily old-fashioned. Our grandparents heard sermons against “the sin of worldliness.” We think we’re too sophisticated to concern ourselves with such trivia. But the real problem is that we are not sufficiently concerned with heavenly values, so we don’t appreciate how wickedly sinful it is to hold on to earthly ones.
And that is the essence of worldliness: It is a love for earthly things, an esteem for earthly values, and a preoccupation with earthly cares. Scripture plainly labels it sin—and it is sin of the worst stripe. It is a spiritual form of adultery that sets one against God Himself: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
I have actually heard Christians say they don’t want to go to heaven until they’ve enjoyed all that the world can deliver. When all earthly pursuits are exhausted, or when age and sickness hamper their enjoyment, then they believe they’ll be ready for heaven. Please God, don’t take me to heaven yet, they pray. I haven’t even been to Hawaii!
But if you live your life without cultivating a love for heavenly things, you will never be fit for heaven. First John 2:15-17 says,
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Some people who claim to know Christ actually love the world so much that frankly there may be good reason to wonder if they can possibly be citizens of heaven. As one of the old spirituals says, “Everybody talkin’ ’bout heaven ain’t goin’ there.”
Sadly, though, it is also true that everyone going to heaven isn’t talking about it. “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10). The hope of heaven should fill us with a joy of anticipation that loosens our hearts from this transitory world.