Too many Christians and churches desperately need financial breakthrough. Many are trying to be obedient, giving and praying in faith, but somehow finances are still scarce. As a result, families are torn apart, churches are not built, missionaries are not sent, the poor are not helped, dreams are unfulfilled. Ultimately, with this lack of resources, the growth of the kingdom of God is hindered.
A primary focus of the Bible and of Jesus, the kingdom message is the answer to many of our problems on this earth, including financial lack. Putting the kingdom message into practice in the area of finance also results in eternal rewards. Too often kingdom economics has been ignored. Kingdom economics is a necessary part of the full kingdom message.
The Bible often uses "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God" interchangeably, especially in Matthew, which was written to a primarily Jewish audience, but for the purposes of this article, we are defining the kingdom of heaven as the place of the throne of God where the Father and Jesus now dwell. For now, the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom that impacts the physical world, but it will become a physical kingdom during the millennium in the last days. Eventually the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven will merge.
Kingdom economics is concerned with bringing the economy of the kingdom into the physical world. Living in the last days means believers have urgent responsibilities and cannot afford to be limited by a lack of resources. God does not intend for His children to be limited. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but there are specific principles that must be followed. God will not violate His Word.
Building on a Heritage of Success
Christians have a heritage of past and present successful business leaders. For example, many know that John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) was very successful in his business dealings. In today's terms, Rockefeller would have been worth more than $268 billion upon his death. At one point, he controlled 90 percent of all U.S. oil refining. With his prosperity, he gave generously, and some observers have declared that he was the greatest philanthropist America has ever had.
Fewer know, however, that Rockefeller was a dedicated Christian who attended church every Sunday and prayer meetings every Friday, and also led a balanced life. He believed and attempted to follow the Scriptures and paid tithes his entire life. He had a heart for African-Americans and funded research that eradicated the hookworm disease that was prevalent in the South. He also funded the predominantly black Spelman College in Georgia. Rockefeller donations revolutionized medical training, funded the University of Chicago, supported missionaries and built hundreds of high schools in the South. Rockefeller began life as a poor boy who came from a dysfunctional family, but the Lord used him. Many of his monopolistic practices would be frowned upon in today's culture, but his was a different time.
R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969) was a dedicated Christian who made his fortune manufacturing earth-moving equipment. He recovered from a bad partnership that left him $5,000 in debt and a failed construction project that left him with $100,000 in liabilities. A man of Christian principles, LeTourneau refused to work Sundays even when threatened with bankruptcy. He started LeTourneau University, a private, nonprofit Christian institution. He also was responsible for 300 patents. LeTourneau was famous for tithing 90 percent of his income and keeping only 10 percent. As a well-known speaker on Christians in business, he did much to transfer a kingdom mentality to his fellow believers.
Many know that the Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A chains are closed Sundays. The Lord honors people who obey their commitment to Him regardless of potential costs. God has prospered both businesses, allowing the founders—David Green and the late S. Truett Cathy, respectively, to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into kingdom work. In addition, Green and Cathy have set examples with their fearless commitment to trusting the Lord and standing on biblical principles.
Many also recognize the following companies and their Christian founders: Coca-Cola (Asa Candler), Domino's (Tom Monaghan), Interstate Batteries (Norm Miller), Home Shopping Network (Bud Paxson), HTC Corporation and VIA Technologies (Cher Wang), Mary Kay Cosmetics (Mary Kay Ash), Pilgrim's Pride (Bo Pilgrim), Quaker Oats (Henry Parsons Crowell), Service Master (Marion Wade) and Wal-Mart (Sam Walton).
Putting God's Word to the Test
Millions of Christians have put God's Word to the test in the business world. They have found that the Lord is faithful, and His Word includes sure promises for the believer. These marketplace Christians follow God and are empowered by His Holy Spirit. They are a light in an often dark world, leading by example in love, patience, honesty, integrity, righteousness, compassion and peace. The people these leaders influence in the marketplace observe their diligence, wisdom, insight and apparent favor. These leaders simply appear to be different than the world—and as a result, God is glorified in their work in the marketplace.
The Lord wants to build His kingdom through His people, and the business world will be a primary vehicle He will use to do so. As business people follow God's direction and choose to partner with churches, they will have sufficient resources for themselves and others. Many business people also will be called to maximize their kingdom influence with their international connections.
Whether founders, owners or employees, God can use the Christian no matter what role he fills in the marketplace. What is important is that each person is where the Lord has called him to be, to live out his faith and follow God's direction.
The critical factor is the believer's relationship with Christ. The Lord has the ability to bless His people in the marketplace regardless of circumstances. Readers of the Old Testament know that Joseph (Gen. 39:21-23) is an example of this. He prospered even as a wrongly accused prisoner because the Lord was with him, and he was obedient.
Living as a Kingdom Citizen
If the believer wants to be an active citizen of the kingdom, he must follow kingdom principles. To do less and expect kingdom blessings is presumptuous. Kingdom principles are clearly outlined in the Bible, and they have been tested and proved millions of times.
Consider these key kingdom principles:
Principle 1: Believers must make sure their priorities reflect that they are serving God first. Abundance and wealth are tools to glorify God, build the kingdom, reach the lost and help the poor and disadvantaged. Christians do not own anything; all that they have belongs to the Lord, and He is in control. He decides how it will be used and will require believers to be good stewards of these resources.
Money can be a great blessing or a great curse depending on our priorities. Like the rich young man who was forced to choose between his wealth and following Jesus, we also must choose. Jesus said to the rich young man: "'If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me.' But when the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful. For he had great possessions" (Matt. 19:21-22). We must decide whom we will serve. We must decide to first seek the kingdom and His righteousness.
"No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24).
Principle 2: Believers need to get sin out of their lives, obey God and continually seek His presence. Repentance is always available. As Jesus commanded the adulterous woman, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). More influence and resources will exaggerate any weaknesses the believer has and will create new temptations. Obedience is key. We should be known for His righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. There is victory over all sin in His presence.
"From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matt. 4:17).
"For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).
"You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).
Principle 3: Remember the Parable of the Sower. Jesus used the parable to help explain the mysteries of the kingdom. The parable describes the reasons why the Word of the kingdom is either productive or not. The parable indirectly teaches strategies to avoid life's pitfalls and grow spiritual fruit.
"Therefore listen to the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one who received seed beside the path" (Matt. 13:18-19). The strategy inherent in this passage is to be open to the Word of the kingdom, asking questions, seeking godly counsel and following the Holy Spirit.
"But he who received the seed on rocky ground is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, eventually he falls away" (Matt. 13:20-21). The strategy here is to expect tests, anticipate difficulties and remain firm in your commitment regardless of potential costs.
"He also who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22). The strategy revealed in this passage is to trust the Lord, maintain proper priorities, renew your mind, consecrate yourself anew and have patience.
"But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit. Some produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown" (Matt. 13:23). The strategy in this Scripture is to continually listen to and study the Word and put it into action, bearing fruit in the process.
Principle 4: Willingly give tithes, offerings and whatever else the Lord directs. Hold nothing back that He asks. The Scriptures are replete with examples of the benefits of giving.
Jesus answered, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left a house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, who shall not receive a hundred times as much now in this age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecution, and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).
"Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will men give unto you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you" (Luke 6:38).
Principle 5: Pray with faith. Continually pray for direction, wisdom, the solution to challenges, opportunities, favor and creative ideas. Pray individually and collectively. Be willing to receive prayer from others.
"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24).
"You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your passions" (James 4:3).
"This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have whatever we asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).
Principle 6: Be empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been given to lead, guide, direct, convict, witness and empower the believer. The fruit of the Spirit should be on display everywhere. The gifts of the Spirit should be utilized in board meetings and in managing businesses as well as in church buildings. The kingdom is known for the supernatural.
"For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20).
"Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
Principle 7: Do not fail the test of victory and success. The greatest temptation is likely to come after the reception of financial breakthrough. When our financial means are more modest, we tend to be more humble, more willing to seek the Lord in faith, more appreciative and more dependent on the Lord. It is easy not to hoard when we have nothing to hoard. When the Lord has answered our prayers in the affirmative and success comes, it is time to share a testimony of His faithfulness and goodness, to express gratitude, to increase kingdom giving, to help and teach others and to push in for His direction and more of His power. Avoid pride. Remain humble. Increase fruit for the kingdom.
"Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to get wealth, so that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is today" (Deut. 8:17-18).
In these last days, we are called to understand, apply and model the kingdom. To the extent that we allow the King of kings to have dominion in our lives, we will experience victory. The message of the kingdom must spread throughout the world.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13).
Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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