Excerpt from Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give.
Rahab was the prostitute living in the walls of Jericho when the Israelite spies showed up… who one day looked out the window and saw another kingdom invading, a kingdom with another king.
A Kingdom within a Kingdom
Today, each one of us is a bit like Rahab. We live in one kingdom, a kingdom of this world. When we look out the window and see King Jesus and his kingdom headed our way, we’re confronted with the same question Rahab faced: Whose side am I on? Nobody can swear ultimate allegiance to more than one king. “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).
Actually, our situation is a bit more complicated than Rahab’s. Jesus has already invaded the city. Furthermore, Jesus hasn’t come simply to obliterate the human kingdoms we’ve grown up in; he’s come to conquer and reclaim them. After all, every throne, dominion, ruler, or authority – on earth and in heaven – was created by and for him (see Col. 1:16–18). And at the end of the biblical story, we find the “kings of the earth” bringing their “splendor” into the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:24). And most importantly for our purposes in this book, our role isn’t simply to accept the invading King and then abandon the communities in which we live. Our role is to swear allegiance to Jesus and become, as the church, an outpost, a colony of the Jesus kingdom, amidst the kingdoms of the world. We are to declare in our words, our actions, and our lives together that “there is another king” (Acts 17:7), and he’s on his way to reclaim what’s his. Through lives lived under the rule of Jesus, we invite every other kingdom to join us in pledging allegiance to our world’s rightful Lord.
This means that those of us who are followers of Jesus live in earthly kingdoms that cannot and should not claim our primary allegiance. We live in the United States or Sudan or China or South Korea or Switzerland. But while different aspects of these earthly kingdoms may be closer to or further from God’s design, all of them fall short of his kingdom.
The Economy of the Kingdom
Every earthly kingdom has its own way of doing things, its own customs and policies regarding food, sex, family, and religion. And every kingdom has an economic policy. But when Jesus welcomes us into his alternate kingdom, something strange happens. We discover a whole new world. As we encounter this strange new world, we discover that the Jesus kingdom looks very different from the kingdoms to which we’ve grown accustomed.
Perhaps you have grown used to thinking about this dynamic in terms of God’s sexual ethics or emphasis on honesty and integrity. Many of us sense that our United States kingdom, for instance, has an entirely different “marriage and family” policy than the one Jesus calls us to embrace. Many of us also sense that when our culture’s approach to family or sex conflicts with God’s approach, we must choose to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 ESV).
But King Jesus also has his own unique economic policies, his own economic program. In the West, our prevailing economic worldview sees people as self-interested individuals with limitless desires in a limited world, who seek to increase consumption and leisure by earning as much money as possible.
Then there’s Jesus, with:
• His parables of well-dressed lilies that neither labor nor spin and wealthy farmers punished for saving too much.
• His commands to lend without expecting return and to invest in heavenly dwellings.
• His establishment of communities in which “no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own” (Acts 4:32).
Suddenly we sense that Jesus might teach Economics 101 quite a bit differently than our high school teachers did. We have a hunch that if economics is, at its most basic, a discussion around consumption, production, and the exchange of goods and services, Jesus might call us to very different patterns of consumption, production, and exchange than those to which our Western world invites us.
A Different Economics
For example, consider the definition of economics in the opening pages of a popular introductory textbook: “Economics is concerned with the efficient use or management of limited productive resources to achieve maximum satisfaction of human material wants.” This field sounds like a materialist, humanist manifesto! We suspect that if the same Jesus who said, “Seek first the kingdom of God” were writing this textbook, he might define this field a bit differently. He might propose something like the following: Economics is the study of humanity’s consumption, production, and exchange of goods and services in order to steward King Jesus’s creation.
When faced with such discrepancies between Jesus’s approach to our economic life and our culture’s approach, many of us sense we are falling short of the life God intends for us.
The problem with our Rahabesque situation may be that the kingdoms we live in just seem more real than the one we encounter in the Bible. If we’re honest, the Bible’s approach to our economic lives doesn’t just look foolish; it looks entirely implausible. When we read the Bible, we sometimes feel as though we’re reading about a parallel universe. Like the older children in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we find it incredibly difficult to believe in Narnia, a land with talking animals and walking trees, when our own world seems so different. And yet Jesus’s triumph over death on the cross and at his resurrection invites us to believe, against any evidence to the contrary, that another “Narnia” is real. Indeed, God is bringing a kingdom far more real than any earthly power or authority we experience today.
If Jesus is welcoming us into this kingdom and calling us to live as colonies of that kingdom within the nations and places we reside, how do we possibly begin to embrace our King’s economic program?
Walking through the Wardrobe: Six Keys to the King’s Economy
We believe the first step is simply to take a look around this strange world of the Bible and grow better acquainted with the neighborhood. Like the kids in the Chronicles of Narnia, we must “walk through the wardrobe” and wander around in this foreign land, learning its customs, acknowledging its alternate reality, and embracing its authority. And then we need to live like we are in Narnia back on this side of the wardrobe, because Narnia is invading our world.
Lucky for us, the God-breathed Bibles on our shelves invite us to do just that. When we read Scripture with an eye to its economic vision, we enter into the world of God’s economy. The time we spend exploring that Narniaesque world prepares us to welcome the kingdom of God in our daily lives as well.
To help you take this journey through the wardrobe (or to help you in your journey “further up and further in” to this grand country), we’ll discuss six keys to the King’s economy. Each of these keys represents a biblical theme we believe captures an important element of God’s heart for our economic lives. Think of these keys as tools to help you “unlock the wardrobe” and enter into the alternate universe of God’s economy in Scripture.
We’ll discuss the following six keys:
1. “God, Not Mammon” || The Worship Key
2. “One Table, One Baptism, No Distinction” || The Community Key
3. “Work and Wages, Gleaning and Giving” || The Work Key
4. “No Poor among You” || The Equity Key
5. “The Heavens Declare the Glory” || The Creation Key
6. “The Lord Has Given the Sabbath” || The Rest Key
Of course, we would never suggest that these themes exhaust all there is to say about the biblical economic vision. We hope that by exploring Scripture through these keys, we will open up new avenues to explore God’s economy in God’s Word – and God’s world – today.
From Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, April 2018. Excerpt used by permission.
Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give
Why the economy of this world leaves us feeling anxious, depressed, and dissatisfied.
Six keys to Jesus’ economy—and practical, innovative ways you can live them out in your work, church, family, and home.
Principles and practices that will move your heart away from materialism—and toward a richer understanding of your place in God’s Kingdom.
How to experience deeper meaning in purpose as you live out your faith in new ways.
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