Jesus and money

This is the first of several responses to my own challenge to apply the ‘Honey and Thistles’ approach more widely, in this case to finance and economics.

It is often said that Jesus spoke more about money and economics than He did about church! Most of His parables concerned money, farming, business or debt. Many of His miracles were ‘economic miracles’. And, a good part of his teaching addressed our relationship with money, wealth and material possessions. So, as good a starting point as any for applying the biblical narrative to economics are Jesus’ parables, miracles and teachings.

In this respect, our first port of call must surely be Matthew 6: 25-34. Here, Jesus tells us not to worry about food, drink and clothing (ie in today’s terms, money), arguing (using a rabbinic qal wahomer middoth) that if the Father feeds the birds and clothes the plants, which neither work nor worry, “how much more” will He look after our needs. Instead of worrying, He says, we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6: 33).

Like many Christians, I have taken much comfort from these verses. But I have also often wondered what exactly it means to ‘seek first the Kingdom’. Shaped by the individualistic mindset of both our society and culture, and our church and Christian culture, I have tended to see this primarily in terms of a personal relationship with the King, worked out in knowledge, love, worship and obedience – if I put Him first, then He’ll fix my needs.

However, a kingdom is also about territory and time, and about subjects and citizens. In which case, the Kingdom of God is also found among its citizens – subjects of the King, living in accordance with the laws and the constitution of His Kingdom. Understood this way, ‘seeking first the Kingdom of God’ means seeking to be part of, to build, Kingdom communities. It is in such contexts that we are to find the cure for care and the meeting of our material needs, and where biblical economics surely starts.

You may have heard of the reportedly real church noticeboard that read: ‘Don’t let worry kill you, let the church help’! I imagine this rings disturbingly true for many of us! But maybe it is time for a change of mindset and rediscover the economics of the Kingdom?

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