I have an image of the judgement day that is based on this text, but only loosely. I do not proclaim this to be truth, just my perception of a possible explanation based on 1 Cor. 3.
At the judgement seat, we will each pass through the fire. I see a sheet of fire standing before the doorway to God. As we pass through this sheet, the things in our lives we have built out of “straw, hay, or wood” are consumed. These are the ungodly things, the unimportant things, the flimsy things we create in our lives, from an eternal perspective. But the things we’ve built our of “gold, silver, and costly stones” pass through the fire unharmed and last. These are the things God has called us to seek, to strive for, to do which last.
What in your life is straw? Hay? Wood? I think of things like wealth, reputation, power, prestige, success, the good will of people. These do not last for eternity. These are inconsequential in the long run. These are tools that will be useless in the world to come. Yet these are the things this world tells us to value above all else. And so we spend our time accumulating wealth and reputation rather than working for Godly things that will last.
What in your life is gold? Silver? Precious stones? I think of things like strengthening your faith, helping others, caring for the poor, building relationships, worship, caring for our spouses and children, and especially evangelism. These are the things that will last. But we treat these like side dishes to life’s meal. We do them when we have the time, or the energy, or the will leftover after we’re done seeking the straw/hay/wood of this world.
Maybe its time for a priority check in light of eternity.