From September 18-20 we will be in Amsterdam for the very first Christian Economic Summit! www.economicsummit.eu
I have been asked to speak on the Economy of the Kingdom … a daunting task! That the Kingdom of God has its own economy with its own chanacteristics is not evident to many.
I often start with a quote from the English playwright, Tom Stoppard: ‘A door like this has opened five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It is the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.’
The upside down economics of the Kingdom is illustrated by some Bible verses such as the words spoken to Joshua on entering the promised land, “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant” (Josh 24:13); and the invitation given by God Himself to “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 53:1,2)
And the early church illustrated the coming of the economics of the Kingdom where we read in Acts 4 “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all hat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”
Provision for needs, the meaninglessness of money, elimination of poverty, sharing liberally, asset distribution … sound good? Well, we pray every day for God to “give us our daily bread, and that His will be done on earth … as it is in heaven.” Therefore the standards in heaven should also become applicable to our earthly economy!
We have two Kingdoms … both of which belong to God! The Kingdm of God (or of heaven) which Jesus introduced (the Kingdom of God is amongst you”) and the natural Kingdom which God instated and which He sustains, also called the common Kingdom.
We all called to obey the cultural mandate, as given in modified form to know in Genesis 9, where in God gave all people, believers and unbelievers alike, the commission to be fruitful and multiply and to exercise dominion over the Earth. The goal of this commission is not to provide a way to attain the new creation but to preserve life and the social order until the end of the present world. Under this covenant all people are morally accountable to God on how they conduct their affairs. The terms of this covenant reminders that we should support legitimate social institutions, such as the family and the state, and must work in coordination and cooperation with all people.
Running a business and doing ordinary work are activities of the current Common kingdom. When Jesus came, he did not establish the state, or the family, or a school, or a business venture. These things already existed and were governed and preserved under the covenant with Noah. The Lord Jesus Christ established one thing, his church, Which was to bring in the kingdom of heaven to influence the common kingdom like salt in food like light in darkness, and like leaven in bread.
The kingdom of heaven has broken into this world and is totally distinct from this world as Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world. John 18, 36. Things are very different in this kingdom of heaven. In this kingdom marriage problems should not lead to divorce, slaps on the cheek should not provoke a proportionate retaliation, and the presence of an enemy should not inflame hatred. Instead, Jesus explains that his kingdom is about forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. If someone has something against you, or slaps you on the right cheek, or persecute you, the response should not be to seek justice but to be reconciled to your brother, not resisting the wrongdoer, turning the other cheek, and not hating your enemies but loving your enemies.
When reading parables about the kingdom of heaven, we can see that the economy of the kingdom of God influences the world in a way which begins very small but will have great effect. It is not an economy which will impose itself on the economy of the common kingdom, not forcing transformation, but becoming an economy which will exercise beneficial service to the good of all who come into contact with it.
Jesus asked “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds (about 30kg.) of flour until it worked all through the dough.” The parable describes what happens when a woman adds leaven (old, fermented dough usually containing lactobacillus and yeast) to a large quantity of flour (about 8½ gallons or 38 litres). The living organisms in the leaven grow overnight, so that by morning the entire quantity of dough has been affected. Another quality in leaven is its secretly penetrating and diffusive power. In this respect it was emblematic of moral influence generally, whether good or bad; and hence Jesus adopts it as illustrating the growth of the kingdom of heaven in the individual’s life and in the world at large: because (1) its source is from without; (2) it is secret in its operation; (3) it spreads by contact of particle with particle; (4) it is widely diffusive, one particle of leaven being able to change any number of particles of flour; and because (5) it does not act like water, moistening a certain amount of flour, but is like a plant, changing the particles it comes in contact with into its own nature, with like propagating power. Such is the power of the economy of the Kingdom when applied in our daily affairs.
Paul gave a very short description of the economy of the Kingdom when he wrote to Christians in Rome, under a very afferent economy. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” Romans 14,17,18.
Eating and drinking are matters for the common kingdom. The fruits of the kingdom of God, produced by the life given by the holy spirit, in service to Christ, are righteousness, peace and joy. Righteousness has everything to do with accountability, realising that in the final analysis we are responsible to God for how we conduct our business.It is about doing things right, About conformity to a known standard about conducting affairs honestly and legally. Peace in the Bible describes the harmony in personal relationships which transcends the experience of the common kingdom.This piece this ‘shalom’ is independent of our circumstances, keeping our heads cool while all around us are losing theirs. Joy is a state of happiness, satisfaction or a contentment in a world which often is frustrating and full of disappointment. It carries the idea of having enough, And being in a position to be able to share with others.
There is a lot to share about this … moree later!