“I wish I could do more for the Kingdom,” I hear people say. “I don’t feel what I do as a profession advances the Kingdom.” All work involves some level of frustration as the result of the curse, however. But mundane work is not necessarily unimportant work. Adam’s work in the garden was largely agricultural we should note, yet it was his designated, and hence holy, calling.
The rule of Jesus as King of kings is easily professed, but the Kingdom of God is an analogy easily misunderstood because it is only partially comparable to any human kingdom, as it is “not of this world” (John 18:36). All analogies are partial. This is why the disciples had a difficult time understanding it; they assumed the analogy meant Jesus would remain as the earthly King of the Kingdom He preached. His role as the heir to David’s throne would have reinforced that view.
When we envision a kingdom or nation we do so in statist political and military terms. We therefore see our loyalty as “fighting” for the Kingdom as Christian soldiers. Yet Jesus followed His words to Pilate that the origin of his Kingdom was “not of this world” with the statement, “… if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight …”
No kingdom exists without a citizenry. The heavenly host do not need a kingdom analogy to understand their role; the comparison is for our understanding. As the people of the King we have a need to know what citizenship entails. The Sermon on the Mount was largely directed toward understanding life in the Kingdom, our responsibilities.
The work of any domain is largely done by its citizens. Royal courts and princes cannot constitute a kingdom. The Greek work translated as “economics” refers to the management of a household and the study of economics is one of the totality of such decisions. Thus, Ludwig von Mises titled his classic work on the free market Human Action. His perspective was that an economy was based on the sum total of the work and decisions of people.
Likewise, the emphasis of the Kingdom of God, though based on the authority of its head, Jesus Christ, is the obedience of its people. The reprimands of the prophets were for lack of obedience to first, their covenant obligations and second, to God’s righteous law. This was the standard of the old kingdom model, Israel, and is still today that for the new model, the Kingdom of God. It demands our covenant faithfulness exhibited by the obedience of faith. Theonomy (which means God’s law) is how we obey, our instruction book.
Our primary responsibilities to the Kingdom of God remain as faithfulness to our covenant responsibilities and our obedience to His law. All citizens of the Kingdom can obey its law, as individuals, families, employers, workers, and every other role and relationship which collectively comprise our “human action,” the sum total of our work and decisions. Adam obeyed his calling in the mundane work of tending the garden. It was when he sought the “more important” job of being “as gods” that he failed.
How, as sinners, can we further the Kingdom of God? First, we are faithful to our covenant calling. We self-consciously operate in terms of the confidence that Jesus is Lord and King. This means He has authority, so second, we “observe all things whatsoever.” One of those things we observe, remember, is the requirement to give tithes and offerings. We are to fund the Kingdom economy beyond our obligation to provide for our families.
The church is modeled on the synagogue, not the temple. By tradition, ten adult men were required to establish a synagogue. That would support a rabbi. Additional members would then allow for charity, education, and more. The tithe in the Old Testament went to the broad educational and charitable work of the Levites, who in turn gave a tenth to the priests (Numbers 18:20–32). Nine-tenths of the tithe (or 9 percent of all increase) went to the work of the Levites.
The work of the shepherd, farmer, craftsman, or merchant was thus Kingdom work because it was done in faithfulness to God’s law (and hence to His ordering of man’s life) and also because it funded the godly work of others. The tithe means that all ethical work serves the Lord. The majority of the people in Israel were not Levites, but through tithes and offerings all were productive in funding their work. Without that faithfulness, the Levitical work was impossible. The same holds true today. We must personally be faithful to our covenant responsibilities as individuals, families, employers, and employees, but we must also give of our increase to the work of God beyond those obligations. Our tithes and offerings extend our faithfulness by funding the economy of the Kingdom of God. We can only claim faithfulness to that Kingdom if we fulfill our citizenship duty to pay its tax. Are you a Kingdom tax dodger?