“This World Is Not My Home”

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…" (Matt. 6:19-20)

     INTRO.: A song which encourages us to lay up treasures no on earth but in heaven is "This World Is Not My Home" (#230 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #361 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text and the tune (I’m Just a Passing Through) are both of unknown origin. Sometimes they are attributed to Albert Edward Brumley (1905-1977). Brumley made what is undoubtedly the most popular arrangement of the song for his 1937 book Radio Favorites, and it is the one used in the vast majority of our books. However, research has shown that the first appearance of the song seems to have been in the 1919 Joyful Meeting in Glory No. 1, edited by Bertha Davis and published by C. Miller of Mt. Sterling, KY. It is believed by many to have come from the southern African-American spiritual tradition. Another arrangement was made by Jesse R. Baxter Jr. (1887-1960). It was published in the 1946 Sentimental Songs by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. (although Baxter’s version seems to be just a rehashing of Brumley’s).

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise (the last lists it in the "Spirituals" section simply as traditional with a 1992 arrangement by the editor) all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2008 Precious Memories edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr. (where again, it is listed simply as traditional). Unless otherwise noted, all of these books use the Brumley arrangement, though in most one stanza is somewhat altered or omitted.

     The song explains why the pilgrim Christian does not look upon this world as his final home.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that our treasures are in heaven
"This world in not my home, I’m just a passing through;
My treasures are laid up Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more."
 A. While researching this song, I came across an article on the website Faith Writers, entitled "This World Is Not My Home" under the heading "Christian Living" by Richard Soule, who made some comments on the song. He wrote, "This world is my home, at least for now….That second line, ‘I’m just a-passing through,’ reveals a lot of what’s wrong with the twenty-first century version of Christianity….Is that a model we want for Christianity? The world has many broken people needing hope, but we’ve got a ticket to somewhere else. We’re just passing through. With that attitude, we won’t interact with anyone other than when required for basic needs. We won’t get to know them, learn about their struggles, help those in need, or share about ourselves." Methinks the writer
misunderstands the nature of the song. Its purpose is not to keep us from doing what we should on this earth while we are alive in the world, but simply to remind us that our citizenship is in heaven: Phil. 3:20-21; and that we are "pilgrims," the very meaning of which is "one passing through": 1 Pet. 2:13-14
 B. The Bible teaches that we should lay up treasure in heaven: Mk. 10:21, 1 Tim. 6:17-19. Mr. Soule wrote, "The problem with these lines is their past tense, as if at some point we can pat ourselves on the back." We’ve gone to church, given to charity, gone on a mission trip, taken communion, tried to live decent lives. Our treasures at laid up–let’s pack our bags and wait for heaven." Yes, I know that there may be some who think this way, but that is not necessarily what the song is saying.  First of all, it is not necessarily past tense. "Are" is present. If we have been laying up treasure in heaven (past tense), then we do have treasures that "are laid up" in heaven (present), and we look forward (in the future) to going there. It seems to me that if Jesus Himself talked about laying up treasure in heaven, then there is nothing wrong with singing about it.
 C. The angels beckon us to continue on our journey toward heaven’s open door to receive these treasures; certainly we know that the angels rejoice when a sinner repents: Lk. 15:10; it would seem quite logical that they want us to go to heaven. Mr. Soule wrote, "Really? If so, I suspect God wishes they would stop it. We all have a time when we’ll approach the throne, but neither we nor the angels should be doing anything to look for a short cut." Where does the song say that? It says nothing about a "short cut." Again, it is simply reminding us of the importance of setting our affections on things above, not on things of this earth: Col. 3:1-2

II. Stanza 2 tells us that the Savior who pardoned us is in heaven
"They’re all expecting me, and that’s one thing I know;
My Savior pardoned me, and now I onward go.
I know He’ll take me through though I am weak and poor,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more."
(Baxter’s arrangement reads:
"My Savior pardoned me from guilt and shame I know;
I’ll trust His saving grace while travelling here below.
I know He’ll welcome me at heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.")
 A. "They’re all expecting me" apparently refers to the redeemed of all ages, that great cloud of witnesses who is cheering us on and even now singing praises to God in the spiritual realm: Heb. 11:1, Rev. 7:9-14
 B. However, an even greater blessing of heaven is that the Savior who pardoned us will be there, so that is what we are looking forward to, as did even the patriarchs of old: Heb. 11:13-16. Mr. Soule wrote, "My Savior pardoned ME? What about everybody else? Jesus’ sacrifice, while undeniably personal, is also universal. ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (Titus 2:11, NASB). The notion of a personal savior is only part of the story. God’s Grace applies to all men and women–we’ve all been pardoned." If he means universal salvation, then the Bible denies it: Matt. 7:13-14. However, I don’t think that he means this. Yes, Jesus’s sacrifice is universal, but, as indicated, it is personal also, so what is wrong with singing that He "pardoned me" while not denying, which the song does not, that He pardons all who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9)?
 C. This Savior has promised to take us through, even though we are weak and poor and sinful, because He offers forgiveness; otherwise no one would have any hope of heaven, because all have sinned and deserve punishment (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). Mr. Soule wrote, "In the context of the hymn, ‘and now I onward go’ refers to heaven, but onward-going can happen right here, right now." All true Christians would agree, and when we sing the song we can have exactly this idea in mind, that even now we are to be working out our own salvation with fear and trembling by doing that which God commands us to do in this life even while pressing on toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God: Phil. 2:11-16, 3:12-14

III. Stanza 3 tells us that our loved ones who are saved will be in heaven
"I have a loving mother up in glory land;
I don’t expect to stop until I shake her hand.
She’s waiting now for me in heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more."
(Baxter’s arrangement reads:
"I have a precious mother up in glory land;
I don’t expect to stop until I clasp her hand.
For me she’s waiting now at heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.")
 A. Ellis J. Crum, in his zeal to make sure that everyone knows that some people have relatives who will not be in heaven, changed the first three lines of this stanza to read:
"I have a loving Savior up in glory land;
I don’t expect to stop until I with Him stand.
He’s waiting now for me in heaven’s open door."
Almost all of our other books which include this stanza have followed the same changes. I suppose the reason is that some might realize that their mothers will not be in heaven and will be saddened by the thought, and others might have mothers who will not be in heaven but might be convinced by the song that those mothers just might be in heaven in spite of not having obeyed the Lord. Having sung this song first out of Sacred Selections, I must admit that I am used to hearing the change and it does not bother me as much as other changes that Crum made. In any event, one of the things to look forward to in heaven is being with those of beloved
friends, brethren, and relatives who have fallen asleep in Jesus and will be raised when the Lord returns: 1 Thess. 4:13-17
 B. Because there are those of beloved saints, friends, and/or relatives in Christ who will be in heaven, it makes heaven a place for which we earnestly groan that we might be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven: 2 Cor. 5:1-8. (Even if Crum did see fit to change "mother" to "Savior," I don’t know why "I don’t expect to stop until I shake His hand")
 C. The statement that someone is "waiting now for me in heaven’s open door" raises the question as to whether we can view the departed saints as being in heaven or not. Accepting as I do the view that the souls of the righteous dead are in Paradise in the Hadean realm awaiting the second coming of Christ, general resurrection, and final judgment before going into heaven itself, the fact is that Christians who have died have gone in some sense to be with Christ: Phil. 1:23; so in that sense, they are waiting for us

IV. Stanza 4 tells us that eternal life and victory will be in heaven
"Just up in glory land we’ll live eternally;
The saints on every hand are shouting victory!
Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more."
(Baxter’s arrangement reads:
"The saints in glory land are shouting victory;
I want to join their band and live eternally.
I hear the sweetest praise from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.")
 A. Up in glory land we’ll live eternally, because in the world to come we shall receive eternal life: Mk. 10:30
 B. At that time, the saints on every hand will be shouting victory because when Jesus returns to take us home, death will be swallowed up in victory: 1 Cor. 15:50-57
 C. Even now the songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore to invite us to press onward: Rev. 5:8-14

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the need to keep on laying up treasure in heaven, setting our affections on things above, and pressing on toward the prize:
"O Lord, you know I have no friend like You;
If heaven’s not my home then, Lord, what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more."
Mr. Soule wrote, "It is certainly true that we have no friend as good and faithful as Jesus. ‘What will I do?’ however, smacks of bewildered hand-wringing." No, it simply emphasizes that if heaven is not our home because we are not meeting the conditions that God has revealed in His word to be justified before Him in this life and receive the eternal home of glory, then we have failed in our very reason for existence here (cf. Heb. 10:26-31). Yes, I need to be using my time here on earth serving God, helping others, sharing His message with the lost, doing whatever I can to accomplish His will in this life. But while doing that, I should never forget that "This World Is Not My Home."


5 thoughts on ““This World Is Not My Home”

  1. I loved your review of this song. Thanks for putting this together with old and new lyrics.

    By the way, I think the original lyrics of stanza 3 are a reference to Mary. Just a thought…

  2. Personally, I would seriously doubt that “mother” refers to Mary. From all appearances, the song has its roots in the southern African-American spiritual tradition, and the slaves and their descendants never sang songs about Mary. However, they often did sing about meeting their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in the glory-land.


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