Bags with Holes
By: C. Gray Adams
One late autumn evening Jim awoke in a strange place, in strange clothing. He thought he had fallen asleep in his Lazy Boy, in front of a crackling fire, in the den of his lakefront home. But that’s not where he was now. He awoke to find himself in a place where the streets were paved with a glistening white substance that appeared to be gold. The air was filled with a fragrance that was more beautiful than anything that he had smelled in his entire life and soothing music seemed to come from all around him. Everyone seemed so unhurried, almost as if they had forever to get where they were going.
At this point Jim looked at his clothes and staggered with surprise from what he saw. He knew that he had taken off his three-piece suit and changed into his lounging clothes before going to his den to take a nap. Now he stood in this beautiful place wearing the clothes of a common beggar. In his hand he held a cloth bag that was tattered and torn and empty of anything but many holes.
All of this puzzled Jim and he knew none of this could be right, so he began to look for someone familiar. Someone to tell him what was going on, to tell him why he was here and why he didn’t know anything about it. Jim looked around, and he saw many faces, but none that he knew. He did note that everyone seemed to be going in one direction and they were all dressed in similar fashion. Some had on clothes similar to the ones he wore and carried bags like his, while others had on fine clothing and carried bags made of sturdy material that was stretched almost to bursting with some unknown cargo.
All of these strange circumstances began to worry Jim, and he began to reason with himself and say maybe he had fallen and hit his head, yes that was it he must have amnesia. That is why no one seemed familiar to him, of course they wouldn’t if he had amnesia he wouldn’t know anyone. Just as he began to like this solution a problem arose with it. He suddenly realized that he could remember all of his past from early childhood right up to the moment he had reclined in his lazy boy chair in the den.
With amnesia ruled out he reasoned that he must be dreaming. Surely that would explain the bizarre circumstances, the clothes, the music, the fragrance, and the streets of gold. As he continued to reason he had a flash of a childhood memory of a children’s church story about heaven, and the streets that were paved with gold. But this couldn’t be heaven because after all he was just in his lazy boy taking a nap in his den. Besides he pondered, a person has to die to get to heaven. At that instant it all became clear to him. This was no dream, he really was in heaven and he was walking on the streets of gold; the very streets of gold that he had been taught about at church for so many years.
As reality began to set in Jim felt a tugging at his heart pulling him down the street along with the others who carried bags. As he went he began to notice that people were carrying all sorts of bags. Some carried a bag like him, while others carried large fully stuffed bags. Still others carried bags that were filled to differing degrees. He did notice, however, that everyone, no matter how else they differed, carried a bag.
While continuing to walk Jim began to notice some similarities between the people around him. All that carried a bag with holes like him wore the clothes of a beggar. While those that carried the large over stuffed bags all wore the finest clothing he had ever seen. Those that carried the smaller bags that contained cargo were dressed in nice clothing, but not as nice as those that carried the large overstuffed bags. As a matter of fact, Jim noticed that the bags seemed to be the common denominator among the people. The bigger the bag, the better the clothes.
Jim was just beginning to wonder why everyone was going down the same street, when he finally saw someone else he knew. It was Jerry Windlap, his childhood friend and now the janitor at his church. He shuffled through the crowded street to talk to him and finally reached him and they greeted each other with a smile and a hug. Jerry’s story just further confused Jim. It turned out that Jerry had fallen from a skyscraper while riveting on the superstructure. Safety requirements called for the wearing of a safety harness, but Jerry had forgotten to put his back on after lunch. He had been working on the 23rd floor and all he could remember was falling and hitting the beams of the 22nd floor and being knocked unconscious. Jim then told him what he knew about his own circumstance, which wasn’t much. He also told him that he was really curious about where they now were and why.
Suddenly Jim and Jerry felt a great peace come over them and they realized that something had changed. Instead of everyone walking alone, they each now had an angel with them. The angel that walked with Jim and Jerry told them his name was Raphael and that he was their escort. He also told them that he would answer any questions they might have.
Jim was full of questions and he didn’t hesitate to ask them all at once. He asked where they were and why. He asked where they were going and when would they be there. He asked about the bags they all carried and the clothing they all wore. The angel smiled and said that he would explain everything to them, as they traveled.
Raphael began by telling them that they were indeed in heaven, because they had died on earth and that they were all headed to the judgment seat of Christ to be judged for all that they had, and had not, done on earth. He told them that they were actually already in the line that extended from the judgment seat, but it would take some time to reach Christ because of the multitude of people that preceded them.
It was at this point that Jim realized that he had been so busy talking and asking questions of Jerry and the Angel that he hadn’t even noticed that Jerry carried one of the largest bags that he had seen since arriving in heaven. Jim looked from his old friend to Raphael and asked him why Jerry carried such a large bag. The Angels’ reply startled Jim to the core. He told him that the clothing that was worn and the bag that each carried was a reflection of that individuals’ wealth in heaven. Those that wore beggars clothing and carried a bag with holes in it were those that were rich toward themselves on earth. While those that carried the large overstuffed bags and wore the finest clothes were those that were rich toward God while on earth.
At this Jim said he could not believe that, surely God would allow a person to bring what they had accumulated on earth to heaven. Raphael then told him that God had told man time and time again in His word that they were not to seek to build their own kingdom, but His.
Jim asked Raphael how Jerry had managed to transport his wealth to heaven, and Raphael’s’ reply was again a shock to him. He asked if he remembered when he and Jerry were teenagers and their Sunday school teacher had taught them that it was better to give than to receive. Jim told him that he did seem to remember something about it, but he thought it was just a nice thing that people said. Raphael told him that Jerry had taken what the teacher had said to heart and began to look for ways to give as much as he could to others in need. He told him how he had skipped the high school prom so his best friend who didn’t have any money could borrow his tuxedo and go. This was his first real act of sacrifice, and instead of it making him feel bad that he had missed the prom, it made him feel good that his friend got to go. As a matter of fact it felt so good that he wanted to give more and more.
Raphael then asked Jim if he knew that Jerry had cleaned their church absolutely free and that he had provided all of the supplies as well. Jim’s face was flush with embarrassment, as he nodded no. He also asked if he knew that Jerry had decided long ago to give better than half of his income to help those that were needy. Again Jim nodded no. Did you notice that every time the church needed help that Jerry was the first to volunteer? Did you notice that Jerry would go out of his way to help anyone with a need? Twice more the answer was no. Do you remember the time that you had a flat in the church parking lot? Yes. Do you remember who it was that came to your assistance in their Sunday best? Yes, of course it had been Jerry. He was there with a smile and lug wrench before you could even begin to ask for help. These were not isolated incidents; Jerry lived his life on earth in this same manner every day. This is why he carries one of the largest bags in all of heaven.
At this Jim said that he had been a deacon at the church for many years and surely that should account for something. Raphael replied, you see Jim, God does not judge your accomplishments by whether or not you are a Deacon or Teacher or even a Pastor, but by how you have loved and given to others. Jerry understood this and he did all he could to follow God’s leading in his life. Jerry became a servant of all and because of that, he will now be among the greatest of all here.
Jim staggered as he realized the ramifications of what Raphael was telling him. He had been the complete opposite of Jerry. He had only been concerned about what he could obtain while on earth. He hadn’t been the least bit concerned about others or their problems. He thought he was doing more than his share by just being a deacon and taking an hour a month to attend a meeting. He thought that all his fancy cars and all of his houses and fine antiques would be worth something here in heaven. But now he realized that those things, the things whereby your wealth is judged on earth, are exactly opposite of what God judges.
And now far too late Jim understood that he had missed the truth of all of the messages that he had heard concerning the Kingdom of God and that because he had not been rich toward God, he would now spend all of eternity dressed as a beggar and carrying a bag with holes.