Earning a Crown

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Caring, God's Hands, Helping, Love

It was April, 1941. The eve of the German invasion of Yugoslavia. Two women worked in a beauty shop: Roza Sober, 19 at the time, and Zekira Besrevic, age 20. There was also an Jewish apprentice in the shop, a Gracija Kamihi. Her uncle, who managed the shop, was a Sarajevo Jew. At the time, Jew, Serbs and Gypsies were being brutally persecuted in this independent state of Croatia. New edicts were passed every day, all of which continually undermined their legal and economic states. They had to wear a yellow patch, do forced labour, and eventually this led to deportations to the labour camps.

Soon the unavoidable happened: Gracija’s family were taken. Only she and her uncle, the same one who owned the beauty shop, were able to escape by hiding in their apartment.

On the night that this happened, Roza and Zekira rushed to the family home and were witnesses to Gracija’s family being taken away. There was nothing they could do to stop the deportation; but in the chaos, Gracija’s mother was able to send a whispered message to the two women: “They are upstairs”. Once the police unit had left, Roza and Zekira took Gracija and her uncle to their home.

It was soon proclaimed that citizens could take over any Jewish businesses. When Zekira and Roza received permission to take over the beauty shop, the first thing they did was to bring Gracija and her uncle to the shop where they hid them and cared for them for several months. The former manager was eventually able to obtain “aryan” papers, and he and his niece moved to an area under Italian occupation. They were then able to send false papers to Gracija’s mother and her brother so that they could join them. Gracija would later state that she owed it all to Roza Sober-Dragoje, who “did everything possible to rescue all of us”. This “all of us” included Gracija’s boyfriend, whom she later married. In the year 2000, the Yad Vashem recognized both Rosa and Zekira as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

I’m pretty sure that neither Rosa nor Zekira did what they did, risking their own lives and careers to help these Jews, because they were seeking fame and fortune. They had no idea that they would later be awarded such an award. This wasn’t their motivation at all. Rather, they helped Gracija and her family because it was the right thing to do. And their sense of what was right was far stronger than their fear of the Germans. What they also didn’t realize at the time was that they would be rewarded with a far greater reward than being named “Righteous Among the Nations”. They will one day receive their ultimate rewards: The Crown of Life.

Let’s not confuse earning a crown of life with righteousness, which we cannot earn (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). We are not talking about Salvation here. This cannot be bought or earned in any way, it is a gift of God that we must accept. But once our way to Heaven is assured through God’s grace, the Bible speaks of many different crowns that we might receive, and these crowns are awarded for different reasons. James tells us that this crown of life is for all those who love God: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 NIV). Let’s remember the definition of those who love God: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands…” (1 John 5:3a NIV). And what are His commands? “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

In doing everything they could to save this Jewish family, Roza and Zekira obeyed God’s command to love their neighbour as themselves. Yes, they have received some earthly glory; but their real glory lies in Heaven when they receive their crowns of life!

Remember: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:34-36 NIV).

Many of you reading this may find yourselves in war-like conditions. Remember the story of Rosa and Zekira. Reach out and help those who are being hunted down. Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty. In other parts of the world, there are no war-like conditions. Nonetheless, cities are overrun with poverty and those who are less fortunate than we are can always be found. Why not reach out to them in love? For in so doing, you will be earning far more than earthly fame. You will be earning the “Crown of life”!

Take a moment right now and think of someone less fortunate than you. I challenge you today to think about what you can do to help that person, and then set out to do it!

In His love,
Rob Chaffart
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries


Earning a Crown