One of my favorite theological concepts is Kingdom building. If you’ve been to church, you’ve heard about the Kingdom of God. Most of us think that it is beyond the Pearly Gates in the afterlife where we will walk on streets of gold and eat whatever we want without getting fat. (Okay, I made up that last part.) If you read the Gospels though, you see that Jesus was here to usher in the Kingdom of God right here, right now. Little by little, Christians are supposed to be transforming our present day reality into something that resembles the coming Kingdom. Yes, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, but we’re not supposed to sit around and wait for it. We’re supposed to get our hands dirty and wear out our shoes in constructing a likeness of His Kingdom right now.
What does Kingdom work look like? For me it’s doing something about poverty. It’s giving girls a chance to go to school, thereby saving them from early marriage and a lifetime of illiteracy. It’s removing myself as much as possible from a system of food production that is harmful to God’s creation. I try to buy local and keep a garden. It also means giving money to non-profits instead of buying more stuff.
For you, Kingdom building may be giving a little old lady a ride to church every Sunday. It might mean adopting a child or opening your home to your teenager’s friends who have unhappy home lives. Whatever it is, it’s active. It’s not just talking about Jesus; it’s doing what we think He might be doing if He were still around.
I have to ask myself quite often, “Whose Kingdom are you building?” Am I putting my money into something that glorifies me or glorifies God? Am I doing something compassionate with my money or am I buying more crap I don’t need? Am I spending my time on something eternal, like being with my kids, or am I chasing wealth at the expense of my family?
To be clear, I don’t have an issue with money. Money is great. It gets shit done. What I have a problem with is the never ending desire for more money to buy more stuff we don’t need. If you have a great job and you’re a high earner, good for you! There’s nothing wrong with accomplishing something and being financially rewarded for it. Earning money is great, but whose Kingdom are we building with that money?
Lately I’ve been thinking about the subversive nature of Christianity. When I look around at American Christians, I don’t always see subversion. I see people who live in the same oversized houses, driving the same gas guzzlers, wearing the same clothes made by 8 year olds in sweat shops, buying the same cheap plastic crap as people who aren’t Christians. I see them building their own kingdoms at the expense of The Kingdom. Before I come across as hyper-judgmental, let me admit that I was like that too, for a very long time. It wasn’t until God got ahold of my priorities that my life as a consumer was radically changed. It’s still hard not to walk into Target and see such adorable stuff in the $1 aisle and not shove it in my cart. When I’m tempted to buy stuff I don’t need, I remind myself how powerful my money can be when used for the Kingdom. Cheap Easter themed dishes to use once a year and feel like a mini Martha Stewart, OR feed a kid? It’s such a simple choice when I frame it that way.
Lately I have seen a new movement among Christians to get back to our subversive roots and defy the dominant culture. I see more people buying thrift, consignment or clothes made without slave labor. I see Christians adopting kids from all over the world, kids with special needs and complicated medical histories. I see more people purposefully living beneath their means so that they can give more money away. These are the people I want to be friends with. Forget the megachurches and prosperity gospel. I want the givers, not the getters!
I want to get my hands dirty and join a community of people who are not content with the present order of the world. I want to be a part of a movement of people who live and give radically.