Many first-century Christians had to face persecution the likes of which few of us today have ever seen. Persecutors would plunder Christians’ property. How would you react if because you were a Christian your belongings were confiscated? The recipients of the letter of Hebrews had taken the spoiling of their goods joyfully (Hebrews 10:34). How could these Hebrew Christians be robbed of their possessions and take it joyfully? The text goes on to indicate why: “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:34).
Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). We sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru.” Do we mean it? Does our attitude toward property indicate that in our hearts this world is more our home than we’d like to admit? The next chapter of Hebrews includes a synopsis of those who lived by faith. Notice Abraham’s faith moved him to live the life of a sojourner. He did not settle in one place, build a mansion, and amass wealth doing business in some city. Though Abraham was a wealthy man, he went where God sent him, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). He desired a better place to live than this world below—a heavenly home (Hebrews 11:16). To the Christian, God has promised “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:4).
Persecutors may rob the Christian’s goods, but no one can take away his reward in heaven. Remember the words of Jesus, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus also reminds us not to be afraid of those who may take our possessions or even our physical lives; one’s soul is the most valuable possession, and the eternal prosperity or ruin of it is in the hands of God whom we ought to fear (Matthew 10:28). Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” includes these words, “Let goods and kindred go. This mortal life also; The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.” Peter reminds us that we are awaiting an abundant entrance into heaven: the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:11), while this earth and the works therein shall be burned up—all these things will be dissolved (3:10-11).
Accepting loss is never easy, but by faith we can endure losses in this life because we know the saving of our most valuable possessions, our souls, is on the horizon. Hebrews 10 goes on to quote Habbakuk 2:4 in showing how crucial it is to continue to trust in the Lord when we have suffered loss. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Whatever we must do without in this life in order to be with the Lord forever, it will be worth it. Paul wrote, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Therefore, don’t base your life on the things you see, which will pass away, but by faith seek the unseen God who has prepared an eternal home for you (2 Corinthians 5:7).