Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I work for

In My Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2 (NKJ)
Don’t store up treasures here on earth . . . store them in heaven where they will never lose their value, and are safe from thieves. – Matthew 6:19–20 (LB)

In his short story, “The Mansion,” Henry Van Dyke tells the story of John Weightman, a highly successful, self-made businessman whose life was ruled by one motto: “Nothing that does not bring the reward.”

Weightman applied this motto to both his professional and personal life, from investing his money to building his richly furnished house to raising his children to giving to charity. A faithful churchgoer and professed Christian, Weightman believed that Scripture promised a reward for good deeds.

Weightman even had a carefully crafted career plan for his son, Harold, who, unbeknown to Weightman, chafed under his father’s iron hand. One Christmas Eve Harold asked his father to help an ill friend who’d saved the young man from going the wrong way in his early college years. Harold suggested they loan him three or four thousand dollars.

When Weightman was told the ill young man had only “a fighting chance,” he balked.

“A fighting chance may do for a speculation, but it is not a good investment,” he said. “Send him three or four hundred dollars.”

That night, feeling sad after the disagreement with Harold, Weightman fell asleep in his carved library chair. He dreamed he died and went to heaven, where people, all of less fortune and prosperity than himself, told him they were on their way to their mansions. Surely, Weightman thought, with all the good he’d done, his mansion would far outdo anyone else’s. And he felt a certain smug pleasure imagining their reactions to his place.

One by one, each of his fellow travelers was escorted to mansions so beautiful they were filled with joy and awe. Finally only Weightman and his friend Dr. McLean were left. The heavenly guide led them to one of the largest and fairest mansions with a spectacular flower garden. The guide turned to the doctor.

“This is for you,” he said. “All the good that you have done for others, all the help that you have given, all the comfort that you have brought, all the strength and love that you have bestowed upon the suffering, are here; for we have built them all into this mansion for you.”

Now it was Weightman’s turn. He could hardly wait. The guide led him to a single, ramshackle hut in an open, lonely field with no flowers and very little grass. It looked like it had been built with scraps and castoffs of other buildings. Surely this was a mistake!

The guide shook his head sadly. “This is all the material you sent us,” he explained.

“All my life long I have been doing things that must have supplied you with material,” Weightman said. “I have built a schoolhouse; the wing of a hospital; two—yes, three—small churches, and the greater part of a large one, the spire of St. Petro—”

“Yes,” answered the Keeper of the Gate, “it counts in the world—where you counted it. But it does not belong to you here. We have saved and used everything that you sent us. This is the mansion prepared for you.”

I wonder—what are my motives for the things I do? I listed all the possible reasons I could have for serving God. Love for Him was at the top of the list—the purest and hardest one of all. I would like to think I serve because I love Him. I would like to think that is my only reason.

But I also work for that heavenly reward—that mansion Scripture promises.

But I confess I’m a lot like Weightman. I long for earthly recognition, appreciation, approval, worldly goods, health, a good life, popularity, achieving my dreams. Would I still serve Him if I were to attain none of these?

I would like to think I would, but I know I still have a way to go to have the pure heart God wants me to have.

Dear God, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You, not on what I could get for being obedient. Help me to give and serve for pure reasons—to want to help someone else with no thought of myself. Amen.

Special-Tea: 1 Corinthians 3:10–15; Matthew 6:1–4, 19–21

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