The God Who Gives
Day 3: The Gift of the Kingdom
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
A rich person who has produced a bumper crop makes a plan. He decides it will be best to build bigger barns so he can store his windfall. The man says to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). Is anything wrong with such thinking? Doesn’t the story sound like a prudently planned retirement package? Invest your money, save up for the future, develop a nest egg, and then relax and enjoy the ride. I dare say that is not merely the American dream—that is the common Christian dream. “But God said to him, ‘Fool!’” (Luke 12:20).
The rich man is a “fool,” not because he is rich, but because as he expends his unbridled energies trying to secure his own personal peace and prosperity, he becomes blinded to an obvious reality—he is not in control. “This night your soul is required of you,” the fool is told, “and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20). Then Jesus delivers the punch line: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (12:21; cf. Prov. 23:4–5; Ezek. 28:1–10). Notice the options here: either you are rich in this world and end up with nothing, or you are “rich toward God” and end up with everything. “But, Jesus,” we naturally respond, “if we don’t pinch pennies, if we don’t stock up, if we don’t look after ourselves, we won’t survive.” How should we then live?1
Jesus’ answer is as simple as it is scandalous: live in God’s kingdom, not in your own. Do not live according to the prevailing powers and prejudices of the kingdom of this world. Let the gift of God’s government guide you. Let me put it differently. Jesus moves immediately from warning us about being possessed by our possessions to encouraging us to take comfort that we belong to God; we are his treasured possessions, and he will never let us go (cf. Ex. 19:5–6; Col. 1:11–14). “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:22–23). Jesus lifts his hand, points to the ravens in the sky, and then to the lilies—neither the birds nor the flowers spend their time twisted up with anxiety, since God provides for them. “Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (12:24–27).
There are only these two options. Either you live under the controlling power and fear of “the nations,” or you live under the Father’s generous rule and reign. The powers of this world encourage us to grasp and grab. But God’s kingdom looks different: his sovereignty is revealed in self-giving. God’s government is defined by gift. Those who belong to God’s kingdom are not to worry. And this lack of worry is established not by building up a large bank account but by participating in the movement of divine generosity.2
Here we run into the paradox of God’s kingdom. Right after Jesus tells us the kingdom is a freely given gift, he immediately challenges his flock: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33–34). In God’s kingdom, life becomes more secure as we let go, not as we grip tighter.
We do not tend to think of the kingdom as gift. We might affirm that the kingdom of God is real, that it is the reign and rule of God, but what does it mean to think of it as something that is given?
Because we are given the kingdom, we possess all things in Christ. Because we are given eternal life, we are not bound by the confines of our narrow, short-lived, self-centered lives. Because we are given salvation, we can, by the Spirit, give away the riches of the kingdom—our very selves—in truly just and generous ways. We have been given everything in the kingdom, including true freedom, which is another way of saying that we have been restored to truly belonging to our loving Father and Maker.
- Identify habits, behaviors, and attitudes in your life like the fool in Jesus’ parable. How do you expend energy to build your own kingdom of peace and prosperity?
- Anxiety and worry often reveal areas in our lives where we have trouble believing God is sovereign or generous. What are the things or situations that tend to make you anxious or worried? Write down, “God, you are good and sovereign over (fill in the blank). I commit my concerns to you and pray that your peace would rule over me.”
Your kingdom come and your will be done, Great King over all the earth. Help me to believe that life inside your kingdom leads to joy and to see the futility of trying to build my own apart from you. Grant me the power of your Spirit to deny myself and live a life characterized by loving you and my neighbor. Amen.
- In his modern-day classic, Francis Schaeffer famously lampooned the West’s worship of these two impoverished values of “personal peace and affluence.” “Personal peace” Schaeffer said, “means just to be left alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city—to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. . . . Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity—a life made up of things, things, and more things—a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance.” Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 205.
- “The kingdom is established by God’s sovereign grace, and its blessings are to be received as gifts of that grace. Man’s duty is not to bring the kingdom into existence, but to enter into it by faith, and to pray that he may be enabled more and more to submit himself to the beneficent rule of God in every area of his life.” Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 44.