Kingdom Marketplace Part VI: Money and the Kingdom

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:10-11)

 “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God.” (1 Tim 6:10-11)

Early on in my Christian walk, I was a successful real estate broker and also heavily involved in leadership of Young Life in Colorado. I supported financially to the ministry that meant so much to me. Wanting to become even more deeply involved, I discussed with my area director the possibilities of me going full time with Young Life. I’ll never forget what he said that day: “Mike, I have all the people I need right now doing the work of the ministry. What I really need is more people like you out there working hard, making money, and supporting those people.”

And so we come to one of the most difficult issues when it comes to establishing a kingdom business: how to handle the money that comes with success? And make no mistake, if God’s place for us in the kingdom is business, and if we are working “heartily as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23) success will come. I wish to make it clear here I do not condemn the making of money by those truly gifted to receive and then use it, as with any other gift, to edify the body. God does indeed bless people to become successful in this world to help fund His kingdom purposes, take care of the poor, and give hope to those gifted differently who need the support of their gift.

It’s argued guns don’t kill people, people with wrong thinking and motives kill people with guns. The same can be said of money. Money doesn’t make people greedy, people with wrong thinking and motives become greedy over money. It is not the amount of wealth we accumulate, or don’t accumulate, that matters. It is how we feel about it evidenced by what we do with it. As the verse says, it’s the love of money that leads to trouble, not the money itself. It is perhaps especially critical in this area to understand God examines the heart, and not the circumstance.

I don’t believe it is any coincidence Jesus put the idea of being satisfied with our daily bread immediately after He said we’re to desire the kingdom of heaven come to earth, and why the number of verses discussing the issue of money is so often pointed out by modern day pastors. When considering the kingdom, particularly affluent ones like ours here in America and other developed nations around the world, it is an issue that can most easily defeat us.  If we’re not “content with what we have” and satisfied with “our daily bread” the kingdom will not be revealed to us.

In Jesus’ messages to His seven churches in the Revelations He addresses Smyrna and Laodicea, two that clearly reveal the difference between kingdom and carnal approaches to wealth. To three of the seven churches He gave a “for and against” message, to two just “for,” and to two just “against” messages. Smyrna was one He had only encouragement for, and Laodicea He had only admonishment for. What is germane to both insofar as this discussion is concerned is they both involve the concept of “being rich,” but through very different lenses engendering very different responses from Jesus.

To Smyrna He begins by citing the very difficult circumstances they live in, including “poverty.” But then He says, “But you are rich.” He tells them because of this kind of wealth they will be able to withstand all the attacks of the evil one that could possible come against them. To Laodicea He mentions another sort of wealth altogether when He tells them because they say and think they are rich, due to the fact they live in comfortable circumstances, they are condemned. So what’s the difference? The Smyrna sort of wealth is kingdom wealth. It is the wealth of the Spirit within that cannot be shaken, and is historically prevalent in circumstances of “tribulation and poverty” for the church. It seeks the things of the Spirit, and always fulfills us regardless of physical circumstance. The Laodicean sort of wealth is historically prevalent in environments of comfort and convenience. It is temporary, causes those inflicted by it to become “lukewarm” in matters of faith, and it literally sickens our Lord. Are you listening, America? This is kingdom of man wealth, seeks the things of this world as evidence of success, and will never fulfill us regardless of our circumstances.

I believe we have essentially become the church of Laodicea here in America. We have deceived ourselves in to thinking we are “rich, wealthy, and have need of nothing” while Jesus, along with the rest of the world, looks at our deeds that are the true measure of faith and replies, “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Here again in these contrasting responses to wealth revealed in two contrasting kingdoms, Jesus states it isn’t money that is the issue. It’s the heart.

To me, the greatest danger facing the American believer is not poverty, disease, addiction [except to money], or political oppression. It’s not the fact that prayer has been kicked out of public schools, every sort of deviant behavior under the Sun is being exalted, or the armies of the world seem to be gathering against us. We can easily see all of that for what it is, and with that we know what can be done to fix it [weather we decide to fix it or not]. To me, the greatest danger of all is the deception of wealth and comfort that has led to the lukewarmth we now witness running rampant among the affluent nations of the world. It is so dangerous because it is not even perceived, as Jesus words to Laodicea revealed. “You say [you think] you are rich and in need of nothing, but I say…” How do you fight something not even perceived to be a problem, yet it is precisely this deception that keeps most in America blind to the kingdom of heaven on earth. No perceived problem? No effort at all to fix it. That is the danger of Laodicea.

I would ask those who seek riches as evidence of God’s blessing why Jesus didn’t seek them? Do we think for a minute Jesus couldn’t have asked untold riches from His Father and they would have been granted Him? If wealth was such an important indicator of God’s blessing [as it was prior to Jesus’ coming], why not the God-man? He had three short years to change the church, the world, and the course of history with His life and His message. Doesn’t the world respect wealth? Why then did Jesus not set Himself up as Solomon so the world would listen to Him? Why was the man who deserved more “blessing” from the Father than anyone who ever lived born in poverty, live as an itinerant preacher, and then die in poverty? Yet no one could argue Jesus was the richest man who ever lived from a kingdom perspective.

Perhaps we should re-examine not only “what Jesus did,” but give some thought to why He did it. Jesus wouldn’t even touch what money His ministry brought in, but left it in the hands of a treasurer named Judas. Interesting isn’t it, the man who betrayed Jesus for some pieces of silver also desired to be His treasurer? Paul said although he had a right to “earn a living from the Gospel,” he refused so no one could ever “make his boast an empty one” by claiming he preached out of greed (1 Cor. 9). Paul must have enjoyed a great measure of financial success as a high-ranking official of the Jews prior to his conversion from one kingdom to another. When he became a kingdom citizen he gave that all up and made tents to support himself and his ministry.

Again, if God wanted to establish a new covenant and the former one was a covenant of physical blessing evidencing faith, then why not carry that forward to this new way if it was working? Like all other aspects of the old, financial blessing was external and it had to pass away because it failed (Heb. 8:9). God’s former temple represented the old way, but God’s new temples would be established in the human heart (1 Cor. 3:16) as a part of the new kingdom of heaven on earth. God’s new way would be a radical departure, in all aspects, from the old.

Finally, all gifts from God [and being a kingdom giver is definitely a gift] are to be used for one thing: edifying the body of Christ (Rom. 15:2, 1 Cor. 14:3, 13, 26). As the church of Pentecost modeled, everyone brought everything to the table for the sake of the body, regardless of the amount of their bounty (Acts 2:45). Kingdom business people are overwhelmed with a desire to serve their community, and those less fortunate, with any financial success they may have. God has transformed their minds to understand fully the “it keeps nothing for itself” portion of the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, and use everything they are blessed with to be a blessing.

I am amazed at the number of believers today who think God owes them a mansion on a golf course, a Mercedes, a private jet, and vacation homes around the world. It is troubling the number of believers who seek the same evidences of success the kingdom of man boasts. These are the dominionists I spoke of in a prior article in this series. These are people who seek for themselves before others, for how could anyone seeing the poverty and need in so many areas of life think they are entitled to live in wretched excess, and that in Jesus’ name? And in what stark contrast their thinking stands in to Jesus’ words, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have next, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58)!

Kingdom business people strive for success, and with that comes wealth. Wealth is not the litmus test of which kingdom we live in, but rather how we view it and what we do with it. I believe Paul would conclude this discussion by saying, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Phil. 4), and also why it is written, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5).

The choice is clear: love money, desire it for yourself and you are a son or daughter of the kingdom of man. Understand God is the total reason for the success He has given you, be grounded in His peace whatever the sum is He blesses you with, desire your money so you can give it away for the edification of the body, be generous in all you do, and you will be a son or daughter in the kingdom of heaven on earth!