Most of us look to friends and colleagues for rewards: a slap on the back, a hero’s medal, applause, a sincere compliment. But according to Jesus, the more important rewards await us after death. It’s possible that the most significant human acts of all are carried out in secret, seen by no one but God. In a nutshell, the message of the kingdom is this: Live for God and not other people.

As Jesus explained it, we are accumulating a kind of savings account, storing up “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) rather than on earth—treasures so great that they will compensate for any amount of suffering. The Old Testament has dropped a few scant hints about an afterlife, but Jesus spoke plainly about a place where “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).

In their quest for a kingdom, the Jews of Jesus’ day had been looking for signs of God’s approval in this life, primarily through prosperity and political power. Beginning with this speech, Jesus changed the focus to the life to come (ch.6). He discounted success in this visible world. Invest in the future life, He cautioned. After all, rust, a thief, or a lowly insect can destroy all else that we accumulate (v.20).