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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

The Kingdoms of Man—Economy

The Kingdoms of Man

Economy

Many people dismiss the Bible on the grounds that it is contradictory and outdated. If it is to be taken as an infallible and literal account where every individual verse is dictated by God, and which supersedes all history, science, and culture, I would probably agree.

In an earlier post, however, I spoke of what I call the warp and woof threads of Scripture. The short woof threads give us the context and perspective of ancient Hebrew, religion, history, and culture.

The longer warp threads extending from Genesis to Revelation, reveal the deep truths of existence: the origin of life on earth, what it means to be human, the purpose of life, life as it is, and the destination of life.

Some of these long threads of truth tell the story, not only of the Hebrews, but also of first century Rome, ancient Egypt, and China, as well as Britain, France, Italy, and early America. And they are also the truths that tell the story of the United States in the 21st century.

Although the details vary from one time and culture to another, these threads of truth tell the human story.

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One of those long warp threads tells of the intoxicating and seductive lure of power. Power: The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. And as British Historian Lord John Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The abuse of power can be exerted in almost any arena of life: family, home, business, church, education, ect…The Bible reveals three cultural strongholds of power that have controlled much of life on earth throughout time: government (politics), economy, and religion. In my last post I spoke of government. Next time I will speak of religion. Today I speak of economy.

These post are in no way intended as exhaustive explanations, but only as introductions to what I believe Scripture tells us about the direction of life under humanity’s attempt to rule the earth on its own terms.

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Economy may be thought of as a country’s system of the production and consumption of goods and services. While I recognize this, I am using the word economy in a more personal way as, wealth, and the means by which people acquire it.

Money, or wealth, is the great purveyor of power. Consider the tongue in cheek definition of the golden rule, “The one who has the gold, makes the rules.”

One story, says that when John D. Rockefeller was asked by a reporter, “How much money is enough.” He is said to have responded, “A little more.” Although exact details differ, Rockefeller’s net worth was the modern-day equivalent of approximately $30 billion.

Whether or not this story is true, we must not underestimate not only the power that money can bring to us, but also the power it can have over us.

Jesus seemed to view money, not so much as a commodity to be managed, but rather as a god that vies for our worship. Both government and religion often succumb to the lure of money and the power it brings.

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The Bible offers direct warnings, as well as real life examples concerning the accumulation of wealth

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself …He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. Deuteronomy 17:16-17.

Why not? The line of reasoning may be this: Positions of power make wealth more accessible. More wealth means more power. And more power tends to breed greater corruption.

Now listen, you rich people…You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves.… James 5:1-5.

In this scenario the rich have increased their wealth by paying low wages to their employees. They live in luxury and self-indulgence while those who work for them struggle to make a living.

The prophet Amos offers details of immorality in business which creates poverty and inequity:

4 Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, 5 saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—skimping the measure, boosting the price, and cheating with dishonest scales,

6 buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. Amos 8:4-6


Amos not only speaks of multiple ways to increase wealth at the expense of others, but he also reveals how this pursuit of wealth can cause a disconnect between faith in God and other aspects of life, such as business.


My paraphrase of verse 5 might be: “I go to church and worship god sometimes, but can we cut this short, I’ve got a business to run and money to make.”


In George MacDonald’s novel, Castle Warlock, the following conversation takes place between Cosmo, a young seeker of truth, and a businessman named Mr. Burns:

Mr. Burns: “The first principle of Business is to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the highest.”

Cosmo: “Where does love of your neighbor come in?”

Mr. Burns: “That has nothing to do with business…Business would come to an immediate standstill if such ideas were allowed to have any relation to it. No man would make a fortune that way.”

Cosmo: “You think then, that what we are sent here for is to make a fortune?”

Mr. Burns: “Most people do think so….The world would hardly go on upon any other supposition.”

Cosmo: “Then the world had better stop. It wasn’t worth making.”

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Jesus warns us about the dangers of making the accumulation of wealth, and its benefits a high priority or goal.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth….For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24


I cannot make decisions based on profitability and personal gain and then assume that I can just serve God in other areas of my life. If my decisions are based on money, then money is my master.

No, I may not seek powerful position in order to benefit myself. I may not become a greedy ogre who gets rich on the backs of others.

However, my heart (my passion, my desire, my trust, and my hope) will lie with my treasure (that which I highly value, that which occupies a great deal of my time, my thoughts, and my energy). My treasure is that which brings me my sense of identity, security, and well being.

It doesn’t mean that I ignore or stop believing in God. It just means that I relegate God to a small benign position in my life. God becomes merely a sidelight, a small duty or obligation to fulfill.

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Scripture also offers correctives to social poverty, inequity, and injustice often created by the desire for wealth and power.

‘If any of your countrymen become poor and are unable to support himself among you, help them as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from him, but fear your God, so that he may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. Deuteronomy 25:35-38

When someone has financial trouble, you don’t just buy them out as cheaply as you can, you help them. No interest and no profit, hmmm, I wonder if that would fly today. Probably not. Today, we charge the highest interest to those who can least afford it, and the lowest interest to those who can most afford it. The assumption is that those who have money to invest must be protected at all cost, even at the expense of others.

John the Baptist says, “The kingdom of God is near…. And the people say, “What should we do then?” John gives three answers to three groups, and all of his answers have to do with the use of money and resources, and the exercise of power.

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 2:10-14

John seems to tell us that the kingdom of God does not operate on the same principles as the kingdoms of man. He says that those who have more than they need are to share with those who have less than they need. This is what Jesus called seeking the kingdom of God.

Jesus prayed, Father…Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth….He told a story about sheep and goats and what it looks like to walk in the kingdom of God on this earth:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.Matthew 25:34-36


Equity, community, and peace, this was God's kingdom and purpose from the beginning of Time. God's purpose has not changed, we have.

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Moses, Amos, James, John the Baptist, and Jesus, all of them had much to say about the economy of wealth and how it is acquired and used. And by the standard procedures of our world, it makes no sense.

However, if there is one thing I understand in Scripture, it is that the kingdom of God is not a subsidiary of 21st century American culture. It does not align itself with any economic theory, social expectation, or political ideology. Usually, it stands in opposition to all of these man made systems.

But, I’m not a king. I’m definitely not a John D. Rockefeller or a Bill Gates. And a lot of people are a lot richer than I am. Yes, and a lot of people are a lot poorer than I am.


This post is not intended to be a tirade against anyone who is considered to be rich. Jesus offers no specific details or parameters. His purpose is not to hand down propositions, rules, laws, or regulations. His purpose is to capture our hearts with the kingdom of God.

I have noticed that in Scripture, it never talks about a middle class. The poor were those who did not have enough to meet their needs. The rich were those who, after their needs were met, had excess. It doesn’t take a genius to know where I live. What will it mean in my life to "Seek first the kingdom of God?








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