As a child, I loved to visit my grandmother Sabina’s small house in the mountains. Aunt Iota lived next door, so my sister and I would spend our days exploring with our cousins, going to the waterfall, swimming in the river that ran behind the property, or climbing the many mountains in the Mantigueira Ridge. It was heaven on earth for a city girl like me.
Their family didn’t have as much materially as ours did. Once, my cousin Anette said, “I may not be rich in things, but I am rich in my heart, and Grandma told me that is the most important!” That was a new thought for me. Was there another kind of riches other than material ones?
I also remember how impressed I was as a child when my mother took me to see The Ten Commandments1 at a movie theater. Moses could have stayed in his comfort zone until the day he died, but he didn’t—he left everything to free his people from oppression. It took me until adulthood to understand how much it must have cost him to follow God.
When I first read the Gospels, one of the stories that stood out to me was the one of the jeweler who discovered a pearl of great price and immediately sold all that he had in order to buy it.2 Jesus explained that this pearl was the kingdom of God, and when I read that, I felt a burning in my heart. I too wanted that pearl!
Jesus also taught: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”3 Being from a metropolitan beach city with a high crime rate, I understood that concept very well.
As I matured, I came to understand more clearly that true riches are not things of this earth; they are joy, peace, love, goodness, faith, and all the other real valuables that God wants to give each of us daily. Ours is the easy part, opening our souls to receive His gifts. If our treasures are in heaven, we will experience God’s joy now and in the life to come.