Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
— 1 Timothy 6:19

When Russian Czar Peter the Great died, his daughter Elizabeta Petrovna came to the throne and became the Empress of Russia. She was perhaps the most flamboyant ruler ever to reign over Russia. The extravagance of her lifestyle was legendary. She owned more palaces than she could use, and the Cinderella-type carriages she owned were hand-carved and gold-leafed. In addition, the carriage doors and spikes of the wheels of each carriage were studded with dazzling diamonds to match the solid gold crowns that were laden with emeralds and rubies and affixed to the top.

The Empress Elizabeta also had an abnormal love of clothes. She completely changed her attire three times a day and never once wore the same article of clothing twice. This was no problem for her, given the fact that she owned 15,000 regal gowns, many of which were spun from pure silver and gold and encrusted with precious gems.

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bookmark2This ruler of Russia came to be known as the “party queen” because she threw hundreds of parties in her massive gold-gilded palaces. To make sure no royal woman ever wore the same gown to such an event twice, she established a new rule: Servants were to be stationed at all the doors; then as each woman left the palace parties, the servants were to stamp the back of these fabulous gowns with a huge black ink stamp. The ink stamp declared that the dress had already been worn to one party and could never be worn to another one. That stamp literally ruined the dress, ensuring that no one would ever dare attend one of the empress’s celebrations in an already-used garment.

During the rule of Empress Elizabeta, she ordered the hundreds of massive columns and statues that adorned all her palaces to be covered with pure gold. However, when Catherine the Great came to power and became the Empress of Russia, she considered that much gold on the exterior of a palace to be garish and unfitting (although Catherine’s lifestyle was actually no less ostentatious than Elizabeta’s). Therefore, Catherine ordered her servants to scrape all the gold off the columns and statues and to throw it away, replacing it with white paint.

When the news of this disposal of gold reached the ears of the wealthy class in Saint Petersburg, a successful merchant came to Catherine the Great and asked if he could purchase the gold she was throwing away. Catherine sternly replied to him, “Excuse me, but who do you think I am? Do you think that I, the Empress of Russia, am so poor that I need to sell my rubbish?” With that, she ordered all the old, scraped-off gold to be thrown away.

Once when I was visiting Saint Petersburg and touring some of these vast historical palaces, I pondered the way these wealthy rulers spent such massive fortunes on themselves. I thought, Today we visit the palaces of people who once lived luxuriously but whose bones now lie in their graves. Although these people lived in opulence during their lifetimes, what good does their wealth do for them now? Did they spend it all on themselves, only to spend an eternity in spiritual impoverishment? What is the eternal condition of these people?

If we are to live wisely, we must invest not only in temporary moments of pleasure, but also in the eternity that lies before all of us. Moments of pleasure in this life are enjoyable but fleeting; however, what we invest in eternity never fades. This is why Paul told the rich in Timothy’s church that they were to be “laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:19). The same message applies to us today.

The words “laying up” are from the Greek word apothesauridzo. This Greek word is a compound of the word apo, which means away, and the word thesaurus, which is the Greek word for a treasure. The two words compounded together mean to store away treasure or to amass a fortune. The new word depicts people putting their investments in a safe place where they cannot be stolen, ruined, or diminished.

Most affluent and prosperous people work very hard to see that their money is invested in safe, profitable, money-making investments. This is why they put their money into stocks and bonds, property, art, or other investments that will eventually reap healthy dividends. They want to see their fortune grow. And if they are wise, they will not invest in ventures that are too risky because they don’t want to see their fortunes stolen, ruined, or diminished.

Likewise, God expects you to be wise with the finances He has entrusted to you. This is made clear in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, where Jesus commends the servants who caused their resources to grow and rebuked the servant who did nothing to increase his financial capacity.

Based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25, we know that each of us should do everything possible to increase the size of our wealth. However, this financial increase isn’t to be gained so we can hoard it or spend it on ourselves! Paul says that if we’ve been blessed with wealth, we need to also think very seriously about how to “lay it up” where it will never be diminished. In fact, he goes on to say that we should use our money to amass “…a good foundation against the time to come….”

The word “good” in the phrase “a good foundation” is the word kalos. As noted in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, the word kalos pictures something that is sound, healthy, fine, or excellent. The word “foundation” is the Greek word themelios. This word is most likely an early combination of the Greek word lithos, which means stone, and the word tithimi, which means to place. It depicts that which is set in stone; a foundation that cannot be easily moved or shaken; or something so solid that it will endure the test of time. This is the reason it later came to be translated as the word foundation.

The words “time to come” are taken from the Greek word mello and describe events that are coming in the future. Later in the verse, Paul proceeds to talk about eternity, leaving no doubt that he is referring to eternity when he speaks of a “time to come.” He wants to urge people to invest not only in the present, but also in the eternity that lies in all their futures.

You see, the money you spend on your own pleasures right now is gone once it is spent. As noted earlier (see November 23), it is normal for you to enjoy the finances you have worked so hard to attain. You should enjoy them. But to spend all of it on yourself here and invest none of it into your eternal future is simply stupidity. What you spend on yourself right now in this life is gone once you have died. On the other hand, what you sow into the Gospel reaches into the next life as an investment that keeps growing for all of eternity — an investment that amasses for yourself an enduring, never-ending reward in the life to come!

If you are a wise investor, you are already aware that you must think long-term when you make your investments. Likewise, as you sow your seed into the Gospel and into those who take it to the ends of the earth, you must remember that you may not see the tangible fruit of your investment in this life. But one day when you get to Heaven, you will at last see the phenomenal reward of your giving. Then you will reap the dividends of the finances you sowed into the Kingdom of God!

So don’t spend all your money on your earthly existence and forget to lay up a good foundation for the eternity that lies in your future. Give now, and by faith prepare for yourself a wealthy existence in the eternity that lies before you!

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My Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to always keep in mind that eternity lies before me. Too often I get so consumed in the affairs of this life that I forget to think about my eternal existence. I don’t want to be so focused on making myself comfortable in this life that I forget to do what I must to make myself comfortable in the next life. Help me lay up a good foundation for the eternity that lies in my future. Holy Spirit, I ask You to teach me not only how to cause my personal wealth to grow here and now, but also how to sow financial seed into the Gospel that will benefit many and cause me to reap great rewards when I pass into the life yet to come!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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My Confession for Today

I boldly declare that I am investing in my future! All of eternity lies before me, so I am sowing seed into the Kingdom of God, believing that it will be multiplied back to me now as it is also laid up for me in my eternal future. I am a wise investor, so I sow regularly and faithfully into the work of God’s Kingdom — and my faith investments are reaping for me a great harvest in the days to come!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

sparking gems from the greek

Questions to Answer

1. Are you sowing for eternity, or are you investing only for the dividends you can reap in this life right now?

2. What can you do to make sure you are not spending all your money on your present pleasures, forgetting to lay up a good foundation for the eternity that lies in your future? When you evaluate what you sow into the Kingdom of God, can you conclude that you are serious about investing into eternity?

3. What changes do you need to make in your spending and investing habits in order to ensure that you will reap strong eternal dividends