Angels of Humility: A Novel
salvation they’ve been given, then pride has overtaken you, the people have been robbed, and the devil has won the day.”
    Paul felt conviction over his giddy anticipation of a stellar performance. Then he shrugged it off.
I‘ve worked hard on this sermon all week; there’s no reason I can’t look good as well as give deep teaching about the Lord, too
.
    Starting his sermons with a joke was something his favorite seminary professor had done, and Paul had carried on the tradition. It seemed to help form a bond with the audience. How can you not like someone if you just laughed at his joke? Paul had the perfect joke to go with his text; he’d even prayed for just the right one. But he couldn’t have foreseen that the Lord was going to use that joke to truly change someone’s life.
    Paul grabbed the lectern with both hands. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and scanned the congregation. I
think there’s a few more this week; that’s always a good sign. Lord help me
.
    Joel and Malta were seated on either side of Sarah, who was sitting by herself toward the back on the left side of the church.
    “A wealthy man strikes a deal with God. God agrees that when the man dies he can bring one suitcase, filled with anything he chooses, with him to Heaven.”
    “Oh, this is a good one,” said Joel. “Have you heard it?”
    “No,” replied Malta, with a grin, “but, if you’ll be quiet, I will.”
    “The man spends weeks pondering what he should take. Maybe diamonds and jewels; maybe money. After much thought and agony, he finally decides he will take his gold. One day he dies, and when he gets to Heaven he has his suitcase. St. Peter tries to take his bag, but he insists he has permission from God to bring the suitcase and its contents. St. Peter checks with God and then tells him, ‘Yes, you can bring the suitcase into Heaven. This must be very special. What did you bring?’ The man proudly opens his suitcase. St. Peter takes a step back in shock and says, ‘You brought pavement?’”
    All but two of the congregation roared. Wilma didn’t laugh because she’d already made up her mind she didn’t like Paul, and therefore, didn’t approve of anything he said, funny joke or not. The other nonlaugher was Sarah. With the help of Joel and Malta, the joke pierced her spirit. She was being touched in such a powerful way that she didn’t even hear the rest of Paul’s sermon-to-end-all sermons. She could see his mouth moving, but was totally distracted by the punch line, “You brought pavement?”
    “That’s right Sarah,” suggested Joel, “what must Heaven be like if God lines the streets with what humans consider their most valuable asset? Think of it this way, Fort Knox is crammed full of heavenly pavement. All the material possessions that you hold dear will eventually mean nothing, less than nothing; they are totally insignificant. When you die, you’ll leave them all behind.”
    Her Bible was laying on her lap opened to Matthew 6:19–21.
“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…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
    Malta whispered, “Life on earth is a vapor, Sarah. Everything here will pass away. Don’t invest in the wrong kingdom. You
will
leave it
all
behind. You should be investing all you have, all your time, all your energy, everything for Him. Remember, you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” 3
    Sarah had a spiritual paradigm shift: I
can see it now. All the possessions I collect here, they’ll all be left here. But God’s Kingdom—it lasts forever
. Tears welled in her eyes as she repented.
Jesus, please forgive me. I’ve spent my life so foolishly, worrying about things that will all end up in some garage sale when I die. I’ve worried about my bank balance and my house, clothes, furniture, how I

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