The Economy of the Kingdom

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt. 6:33).
The Economy of the Kingdom

I was riding in a car with Dallas Willard somewhere between Colorado Springs and Denver. I asked, "Hey, could I get your advice on something?"

I told him the following story: "Three years ago, I invited a young man to speak at our chapel service. About the time I expected him to arrive, he called me from a nearby town and told me his car had broken down. So I drove out to meet him and helped him get his car to a repair shop. The next day he spoke in chapel, and then I drove him to get his car. He spoke to the mechanic, who told him it was done, and then presented him with a bill. The young man came to me and said, 'Um, I am really embarrassed, but I don't have enough money to pay the bill. In fact, I don't have any money at all. Could you loan me the money, and I will pay you back in a week or so?'

"The bill turned out to be $400. I called my wife to let her know what I was thinking about doing. She thought it was a good thing to do, helping someone out and all. So I paid the bill, and he took off for home. Several weeks passed, and I didn't hear from him. Several weeks turned into several months, and still I heard nothing. Then about a year later, he left a message at work that said, 'Hey, I am really sorry. Things are still really tight for me, but I want you to know that I haven't forgotten about the money I owe you. I should have it in a few weeks.' Once again, a few weeks turned into a few months, and two years later, I still haven't heard from him. I am just wondering if it would be alright if I called him, and if so, what should I say. What do you think, Dallas?"

Dallas paused, then looked at me and asked, "Have you missed it?"

I replied, "Have I missed … what?"

"Have you missed the money? Have you been living in a condition of need?"

I thought about it for a moment, and it occurred to me that over the past three years we had had adequate—actually more than adequate—provision for the things we need. I began to remember several instances when some large, unexpected bill (roof repair, new dishwasher, broken water pump in the car) had come along, and every time there was some unexpected surplus that allowed us to survive unscathed. I remembered one time when we got an unexpected $500 bill for our daughter's medical care, and I didn't sleep well that night. Then, in the next day's mail we got a check from an anonymous source. The enclosed note said, "I really felt that God wanted me to send you this check. I have been praying for you and your daughter."

The check was for $500.

"No," I answered Dallas, "We have not missed it. We have been well cared for."

"You see, Jim," Dallas explained, "It is all about kingdom economics."

I'd never heard of kingdom economics.

Dallas went on, "The kingdom of God is God's rule and reign, and when you surrendered your life to God you entered that kingdom. The essence of the Trinity is self-sacrifice. God is in the business of giving to others. When you gave your money freely to that man, you were aligned with God and his kingdom. God would then make sure that the money given in sacrifice would never be missed."

Something shifted in me during that car ride that has left me changed. Dallas pointed out something going on all around me that I had failed to notice. God was with me. God had been watching over me. It was as if Dallas were Sherlock Holmes, who in the final scene points out 15 clues that have been there all along but no one was paying attention to. When I added up all of the clues, it became clear that God had been very near my family and our needs. Kingdom economics is not a "get rich" scheme, but rather a system of providing for people's needs as they need it.

But more important than awakening me to the presence of the kingdom was the way it made me think about the King. What kind of God would care so much for me that something as trivial as my little financial bills matter to him? I began to suspect that God was out for my good, and if so, then he must be the kind of God who is indeed good. I learned that God is my Abba Father, trustworthy and loving. I experienced a God who is utterly self-sacrificing.

The key to what Dallas said was this: "The essence of the Trinity is self-sacrifice." That is an idea that is seldom talked about. Many people view God as an angry judge who punishes us for our infractions. But the Christian story reveals a God who sacrifices for his creation out of love. The incarnation (God becoming human) and the crucifixion (God dying for humans) are indisputable evidence that the essence of God is love (1 John 4:8).

The Sermon on the Mount is, in my view, the greatest sermon ever given. And the central idea comes from Matthew 6:33: "But seek fist his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." The kingdom of God is found wherever God reigns. When we put the kingdom of God at the center of our lives by surrendering to God's will, everything we need will be provided for us. That is the essential promise of kingdom economics.

You came into being out of grace. Though you may have faced hardship, every day the sun came up and there was air to breathe—all gift. Your and my salvation are true acts of grace—we did nothing to deserve it. That is because God is giving. And as God's people, we take on his character and become giving people. Sometimes it takes a broken down car to teach us things like that.

Adapted from The Kingdom and the Cross, by James Bryan Smith, chapter 1, copyright 2010. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515.

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