Joseph explained to Pharaoh that his dreams were actually warnings from God. Seven years of abundance and plenty were about to begin in Egypt, but they were to be followed by seven years of desperate famine. The solution was to lay up stores during the seven years of plenty so there would be sufficient food in the coming years of famine.
Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph's wisdom that he made him a minister over Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Joseph oversaw the building of storehouses in which the abundant grain of Egypt's seven years of plenty was stored.
Life is uncertain, and it is only prudent to lay up savings and provisions. The Proverbs say, "There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it" (Prov. 21:20).
Contrary to the advice of Joseph, modern society promotes a lifestyle of squandering all available wealth, overspending and relying on credit. Though we live in the most affluent times that the human race has ever enjoyed, few people have the wisdom to lay up savings for leaner times ahead.
Jesus told His disciples to lay up treasures in heaven instead of on earth:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).
Our lives on earth can be compared to the seven years of plenty. We have an abundance of opportunities to do good to others, to repent and practice righteousness and to give charity to the needy. However, these golden years of opportunity are limited. Whether in seven days, seven years or seventy years, the opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven will vanish. After we die, our opportunities to do good deeds are gone.
In Judaism, a good deed like giving charity to the needy is called a "mitzvah" (מצוה). The plural form is "mitzvot" (מצות) The word "mitzvah" literally means "commandment." Every time we keep one of God's commandments, it is a "good deed." Therefore, the word "mitzvah" has come to be associated with any act of goodness.
Our opportunities to do mitzvot are limited to our lifetime here on earth. Jesus teaches that our mitzvot are like money placed into a savings account in heaven. When we pass into the next life, we will be able to cash in on the mitzvot we have stored up in heaven.
The world says, "You can't take it with you." The Messiah says you can. Jesus teaches that "you can take it with you" by giving your money to charity and investing your time and resources into the things of the kingdom of heaven. You are storing it up in heaven. When you arrive in the next life, you will be rewarded for your acts of kindness and piety.
Joseph encouraged all of Egypt to diligently lay up stores and provisions for the lean years to come. So too, we should be storing up our resources in heaven for the years to come.
Daniel Thomas Lancaster is a writer, teacher and the Director of Education at the Messianic ministry of First Fruits of Zion (ffoz.org), an international ministry with offices in Israel, Canada, and USA, bringing Messianic Jewish teaching to Christians and Jews. He is the author of several books about the Jewish roots of Christianity, the Jewishness of the New Testament, and he is the author of the Torah Club Bible study program (ffoz.org). He also serves as the teaching pastor at Beth Immanuel (bethimmanuel.org), a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Hudson, Wisconsin. Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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