The Kingdom of Heaven Offers a Superior Economic System
Friends of mine have proposed and defended the theory that capitalism is the economic system which best manifests God’s Kingdom on Earth. Although it’s certainly an excellent wealth-producing mechanism when the playing field remains level, I believe that capitalism is NOT the best we can do. It is certainly an excellent, but imperfect system when compared to the economic structure of the Kingdom. I intend on reasoning from scripture, sometimes quoting directly, sometimes paraphrasing, hopefully preventing my theory from dissolving into something pseudo-spiritual. Let’s begin with a grand strategy and add specifics later.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not a mystical metaphor, but a unique, operating government. Jesus preached of His Father’s mysterious kingdom from the infancy of His ministry and all through His post-resurrection, forty-day missions trip. Then He ascended to heaven to take His seat as the King of Kings. During His entire three-year ministry, He maintained and broadcasted a single-minded focus on His Father’s Kingdom. Of course, our immigration papers, permitting entry into that Kingdom, would eventually be stamped and validated with His precious blood. This spiritual government, prophesied by Isaiah, Daniel and John the Baptist, would only know increase from the moment it began to recolonize the visible universe after a four-thousand year absence.
The United Nations does not recognize this spiritual government because it occupies no land mass and waves no flag. It cannot be found on any map of this world. Yet the residents of this Kingdom are currently living under a type of dual citizenship. Many readers of this Journal hold passports in the USA, but many also offer sworn allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a case of being in the world, but not solely of the world.
The Kingdom of Heaven mints no currency, forms no legislature and has an atypical constitution and judiciary. Its laws are “written on the hearts” of its citizens and administered by an invisible Holy Spirit who instructs, supplies and educates the residents. Resources appear to those in need according to the riches found in the King’s boundless treasury through a “just-in-time manufacturing” method unique to this particular economy.
The Kingdom of Heaven employs a Commonwealth distribution system quite foreign to any rational, 21st century economic theorist. In a pure Kingdom, all property is owned by the King. He leases, lends, awards and retrieves this property according to His sovereign will. Citizens in such a Kingdom do not own land, money or any other form of capital. They are asset-poor but resource-rich in that everything is accessible to them through the office of the King. The King’s treasure is administered by the royal family, under authority of the sovereign leader. As reported by John, those who believe in Jesus are members of this family: “As many as received Him, He gave them power (authority) to become sons of God.” (John 1:12) The King’s family manages, or provides stewardship over delegated portions of the Kingdom. They can increase or lose their influence as they demonstrate faithfulness in implementing the King’s will. In the book of Romans, the Bible teaches that the entire Earth is “groaning” (8:19) in anticipation of the arrival of the mature members of God’s family and, of course, the blessings which flow from their efforts. Successfully operating within such an economy requires immense trust — a supernatural faith, if you will — that acknowledges the King’s judgment as supreme. The rewards of participating in such an economic system are remarkable, and remain available to all citizens.
This entire concept is, of course, abhorrent to the democratic/capitalistic mindset. It smacks of servile, unmotivated wards of the State dependent on the beneficence of a capricious King. Why work if everything is supplied? Capitalism has rightfully emerged as man’s optimal economic philosophy after millennia of failed alternatives. Raising and deploying capital to its highest level of efficiency is a marvelous intellectual exercise. Many people benefit as money migrates to ever higher forms of value creation. So what if it produces winners and losers? And if some of the entrepreneurial wizards in the marketplace employ ignoble means to achieve prosperous ends, can’t we just look the other way? Putting aside the excessive, clamorous claims of the nature worshippers, do we believe all capitalists are exercising a protective, Genesis-minded dominion over the Earth? Or do we still accept collateral damage to the environment as an acceptable cost of doing business?
If Jesus is merely the Messiah, who clears the record of our sins and whose blood validates our entry to His Father’s heaven subsequent to our physical death, then I agree with the premise of this debate — capitalism and “democracy” should be protected and advanced at all costs. They are the best we can do. If, as believers, we are to wait for a coming Kingdom, and to long for “the sweet bye and bye”, where “we shall meet on that beautiful shore” then capitalism and its political mistress, democracy, are essential constructs. If we are migrating through life, waiting for the trumpet to call us home, then why not build an empire and spread the American creed (in Jesus’ name, of course)? If life in God’s Kingdom starts after this human life, and if we are simply anticipating our last heartbeat to initiate that eternal, dreamy, delightful fairy tale existence, then we certainly need to optimize our brief lifespan on this planet using the best economic and political system available – capitalism practiced within democracy.
At the end of 1 Corinthians 12, after making a strong case for the value and importance of spiritual gifts, Paul pens a resonating, classic line. He writes, “And yet I show you a more excellent way.” As much as I personally enjoy and benefit from the blessings of the capitalism/democracy worldview, in this Journal I will propose and defend the thesis that the Kingdom of Heaven has a superior government and an extraordinary economy which are both accessible to all of God’s people, right now. In short, operating within God’s Kingdom is a more excellent and sound way to live. In this Kingdom, the mechanisms of supply and demand are radically different than those found in capitalism. In this Kingdom, commodities are so cheap that gold replaces gravel (Rev 21:21). Whoever loses his life will find it; the first will be last; the greatest one is the servant of all. Motivation and value based on scarcity is banished.
I suggest that each of us may lay claim, now, to the unique, bountiful promises of this Kingdom. By the grace of God, it is time for these Kingdom principles to emerge from the parabolic passages of Scripture to supply the very real needs in our families and our communities.