Peter Brown in Lapham's Quarterly:
When Christians of late antiquity thought of religious giving, they went back to what for them was the beginning—to the words of Jesus. The words of Jesus to the Rich Young Man described a transfer of “treasure” from earth to heaven: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.’ ” Jesus repeated this challenge to his disciples: “Sell your possessions and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” The transfer of treasure from earth to heaven was also current in Jewish circles. In the Jerusalem Talmud of the late fourth century, there is a story about King Monobazos, the Jewish king of Adiabene on the Euphrates. He was said to have spent his fortune providing food for the poor in Jerusalem. His infuriated relatives accused him of living up to his name, which was derived from the word bazaz—“to plunder.” Monobazos was plundering his earthly inheritance. He answered them: “My fathers laid up treasure for below, but I have laid up treasures for above. They laid up treasures in a place over which the hand of man may prevail: I in a place over which no hand can prevail.”
The words of Jesus and the story of King Monobazos urged or described heroic acts of renunciation and generosity. By the third century, however, in both Judaism and Christianity, the gesture of giving had become miniaturized, as it were. One did not have to perform feats of heroic self-sacrifice or charity to place treasure in heaven. Small gifts would do. For instance, Cyprian, who became the bishop of Carthage around 249, treated the steady, low-profile flow of alms to the poor on the same footing as the renunciation of all wealth that Jesus had urged on the Rich Young Man. Heaven was thus not only a place of great treasure houses, it included prime real estate in a state of continuous construction due to almsgiving performed on earth by means of common, coarse money.
When one turns to present-day scholarship on this theme, we find that the idea of a transfer of treasure to heaven is surrounded by a loud silence.