The Kingdom-Driven Life: Discovering God’s Larger Purpose and Our Place in It
Is there a vision broad enough to be the central mission for every Christian, every family, every ministry, organization, institution, and business, yet focused enough to be meaningful to us individually? I submit that there is such a vision, and understanding it offers the cure for all that ails both our souls and our society.
It probably sounds strange that a vision so universal can yield such empowering purpose to you as an individual. Usually something “general” is too wide to hold such specific influence upon every aspect of life. But the Bible provides us with a vision that is both broad and specific. It’s a vision that can provide every living soul with a purpose that obliterates confusion, stagnation, and procrastination, and it’s a vision that can steer the direction of entire nations, institutions, and relationships. It’s a vision so drenched with purpose that its power can create the greatest era in human history because it’s the only vision that can both order and direct every aspect of society. Yes, the Bible provides us with such a vision, and the only downside is the convoluting of that vision by fashionable evangelical leaders.
A World Clamoring for Purpose
Would you believe that a conservative Southern Baptist pastor wrote the best selling hardback book in the world? Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has now sold over 25 million copies. Would you believe that a Charismatic pastor, with no theological awareness, is one of the most popular television preachers in modern history? Millions around the world tune in weekly to hear young Joel Osteen of Houston, Texas, preach to his 40,000-member congregation in a converted sports arena. Osteen is no literary slouch either. His latest book, Become a Better You—a follow-up to his bestseller Your Best Life Now—had an initial print run of 3 million copies.
It’s obvious that the world is clamoring for a sense of purpose. They want to know why they are here, and what their life should be about. The modern Christian leader skillful in psychobabble can easily tap into this void by presenting a lucid blend of self-help techniques and modified Bible readings. In such a philosophy, the life of Joseph is a lesson for corporate success; Job’s plight reveals keys to overcoming depression; and Solomon is the Donald Trump of the Old Testament. Mankind needs a vision, but Christian leaders are addressing this desperation with a man-centered gospel of deplorable content. The message they bring undermines a central thesis to Biblical revelation.
The Biblical Thesis
The Oxford American Dictionary defines thesis as “a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved.” If you’ve been to college, or a university, you will likely recall that before your professors allowed you to begin an essay or dissertation, you were required to craft a thesis statement.
The purpose of the thesis statement is to provide concentrated direction. Inexperienced students begin with a thesis too broad and are later prompted by their teachers to narrow the focus. A student who wants to write a research paper on “love” ends up with a highly focused thesis targeting the definition of love as found in the romance literature of Victorian England from 1837 to 1845. Without a tightly defined thesis, the student will get lost in the torrent of source material. Where would one begin research for something so general as “love”? And what would one be trying to prove regarding that general subject? The thesis statement limits the resources to be consulted and sets the goal for what the student is to prove or achieve.
I have my own definition of thesis: that which you are seeking to establish. In this sense, we all have a thesis, and that thesis gets applied to every area of our lives. So also are nations, corporations, and institutions driven by a thesis. These all have something they are seeking to establish. The Bible itself is a crafted thesis—it presents to man that which God seeks to establish. God’s thesis, or purpose, moves throughout the entire Biblical narrative, but its full revelation was not disclosed until the New Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s thesis was essentially hidden from the body of Israel. Even the prophets themselves were seeing through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12) and could not define with clarity the nature of the unspeakable glory that would follow the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10–12). It was not until the prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ that the world’s greatest secret began to shine out of dark places as a day star for every human heart (2 Pet. 1:19)—the great secret contained the great thesis.
The World’s Greatest Secret
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matt. 13:35)
In 2006 a self-help film, The Secret, was touted by media elites such as Oprah Winfrey and Larry King as a must-have for every person. It purportedly reveals an ancient method of success called the law of attraction that was utilized by such luminaries as Plato, Newton, Emerson, Edison, and Einstein. The premise of The Secret is that whatever dominates your mind—whether positive or negative—is what you’ll attract into your life. No doubt the success of this film, and accompanying book, is equally due to the need for purpose that is driving the modern geist.
There is a secret, but it is not the law of attraction. There is a thesis, but it is not the purpose-driven life. There is a vision, but it far exceeds the grossly limited paradigm of a man-centered gospel of personal development. Our Lord revealed the secret kept hidden from the foundation of the world; and though the time had come for men to understand these truths, Jesus still chose to present that glorious vision in a series of parables intended to reach only those ordained by His Father:
Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. (Mark 4:11–12, emphasis added)
God kept secret the mystery of the Kingdom of God from the foundation of the world (Luke 13:35). The Greek term musterion (mystery) is a derivative of muo (to shut the mouth) and taken from mueo, which means to initiate into the mysteries. Mystery was commonly defined as a secret revealed to initiate one into an elite religious rite. The mystery religions of ancient history, as well as the more modern secret societies, purport to hold such mysteries as an allure for neophytes into their respective orders. God’s reasons for secrecy, however, were contingent upon divine election.
Although the Kingdom of God is to abide in the light so as to be seen of men (Matt. 5:14–16), understanding the mystery of the Kingdom of God is still the secret to being initiated into the order of God’s kings and priests—an order that is ordained to extend His rule into every area of life.
Seeing the Kingdom of God requires first that one be born of the Spirit (John 3:3)—a strange-sounding idea to Nicodemus—“a master of Israel” (v. 10). Jesus was revealing “heavenly things,” but Nicodemus struggled to comprehend His meaning. “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. Jesus scoffed at Nicodemus’ blindness to the heavenly realities. The old order of priests and rulers was passing away, while a new order of king-priests was being created—i.e., “born again”—and they represented the chosen generation to be ushered out of the darkness into the light of God’s Kingdom:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Pet. 2:9).
Since Nicodemus understood neither the earthly nor heavenly things of Israel’s history (John 3:12), this new order of king-priests would require first a framework for understanding history, because the ethno-geographic center of Israel would no longer be the context for future Kingdom history. Christ presented this new framework in His parables, the majority of which focus exclusively as means to defining the Kingdom. Most of them begin with the refrain, “The Kingdom of heaven is like …”
When Christ stated that with these parables He would “utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35), it was a preface to His explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares—a foundational parable that provides a new framework for understanding history and the developing Kingdom.
The Secret of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares
You’re probably familiar with the parable about a man who sowed wheat into his field, but while he was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed tares among his wheat. The man restrained the harvesters from plucking up the tares immediately lest they also remove some wheat. He instructed them to wait until the full harvest when the distinction between wheat and tare would be most clear. Of concern to me is what our Lord reveals to His disciples about the meaning of this parable.
He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity … Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matt. 13:37–43)
Here we learn that two seeds are striving for dominance of the field. If the field is the world, then the children of the Kingdom contend with the children of the wicked one to determine who shall rule it. If you have a grass lawn, you know firsthand that the secret to battling weeds and crabgrass is to crowd them out with healthy grass. However, that is also the way in which the weeds can crowd out your grass. The point is that we are not the only ones plowing in the field. We are not the only ones building a Kingdom. The tares are seeking a world of tares in which all signs of a wheat society are eradicated.
The mystery of the Kingdom is a grand vision in which the children of the Kingdom labor to extend the rule and reign of Christ in every area of life. This is the Bible’s simple thesis—a vision sufficient for every institution, relationship, or individual. It is the Kingdom of God and His righteousness:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33)
I appreciate the defining clause regarding “His righteousness” because it helps restrain too heavenly an interpretation. Righteousness speaks of justice and the order of God—it is when the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven (v. 10). Like Nicodemus, too many Christians do not see this thesis, and so use the Christian faith for personal ends. R. J. Rushdoony once wrote, “The major concern of most church members is not the Lord’s battles … but, ‘How best can I enjoy life?’”1
Christian leaders have seized on this corruptibility and turned a hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) into an incessant drive for what we shall eat, what we shall drink, and what we shall put on (Matt. 6:31). This epitomizes the basic difference between the thesis of mainstream Christianity and that of Christian Reconstruction: mainstream Christianity has encouraged believers to pursue carnal necessities and trivial self-worth, while Rushdoony created in us a hunger and thirst for the Kingdom and His righteousness. What is needed most now is a body of faithful people who understand their responsibility as stewards and trustees of God’s righteousness.
According to the Oxford American Dictionary, “a trustee is an individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.” This aptly describes the primary responsibility of every Christian, relationship, or institution. We are all given the powers to administer the property of another; a property that we only hold in trust, and a property that must be administered according to the purposes specified by the original property owner. The first such trustees were Adam and Eve:
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Gen. 2:18)
God had created man to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion” (Gen. 1:28), and this meant man was to go to work seeking first and foremost the expansion of God’s righteous dominion—man’s labors were glorified with purpose when understood as the means to fulfilling God’s mandate. To complete this task, Adam was given a helpmeet—not a lover, but a coworker—out of his own flesh. From that point on, this process would be reversed as men and women are now fused together in a way that connects them both spiritually and physically.
But the marriage covenant was not to be the end point. This is the lesson we must teach our children. Girls grow up idealizing romance in such a way that the marriage relationship itself becomes the goal or end to their life. Similarly, boys develop the fallacious idea that acquiring a “trophy wife” is one part of their ideal picture of the successful man. Both lead to false expectations, and the true purpose of marriage is never understood or lived out.
Adam and Eve were created as trustees of the dominion mandate. They were given administration over God’s property in trust, and they were expected to administer that property according to the purposes specified by God. As we know, they failed in their trusteeship. They could not manage the single tree from which they were forbidden. They agreed as a “couple” to make a decision as a “couple” to do something for them as a “couple,” viz. they conspired to be like God.
When we make marriage the end or goal, we will likely fail in our trusteeship. A larger vision of the Kingdom and His righteousness is to transcend the purpose of marriage (Matt. 6:33). Our relationships, like vocations and all institutions, are not ends in themselves but are simply means to the end of establishing God’s rule in every area of life. Husbands and wives must commit their marriage and family to the larger vision of advancing God’s Kingdom, and this in itself may be of great service in alleviating some of the undue pressures of modern marriage.
We are all trustees whether young or old, or male or female. The Apostle Paul speaks of marriage as a mystery that actually reveals the relationship of Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32); but he goes on in the next chapter to redefine all areas and people in terms of that same larger purpose:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right … And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh … in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. (Eph. 6:1–5, emphasis added)
Whether a small child, father, or employee, all that we do is to be done as unto the Lord with singleness of heart. And doing things unto the Lord means for the Lord’s purpose, which is His Kingdom. This idea of singleness of heart bespeaks of purpose, but that purpose is still the advancing Kingdom.
All people in all areas work as unto the Lord. Their labor is redefined in terms of its meaning—the Lord’s vision becomes the end point instead of the relationship, position, or job in itself. We shouldn’t pursue a “Christian marriage”; we should see our marriage as a means to advancing the vision of the Kingdom that transcends our marriage. We’re not to be merely “Christians in the marketplace”; we’re to see our vocations as a way in which the Kingdom is advanced. To live in this manner requires a singleness of heart (Eph. 6:5), and that level of commitment opens the door to an even greater understanding of God’s purpose:
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. (Matt. 6:22)
When our focus, or purpose, is God’s Kingdom, we are enlightened to better understand that purpose, i.e., we are filled with light. This greater understanding aids us in multiplying the effectiveness of our gifts, talents, and resources. God’s wisdom will “speak with you” (Prov. 6:22 NKJV) as you hunger and thirst for His Kingdom and righteousness because your commitment is the power behind creativity and invention. With a passion for God’s purposes, you’ll look for ways to exhaust all that God has entrusted you with.
The Parable of the Ten Pounds
Our Lord taught this well-known parable for two reasons: (1) He was closing in on Jerusalem, and therefore His death, and (2) His disciples “thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11, emphasis added). In verse 14, an important aspect of the story is revealed:
But his citizens hated him [the nobleman], and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
Our Lord’s point is that the Kingdom shall not immediately appear, but rather, He shall disappear, and the responsibility for implementing His reign would fall to the trustees He empowered with both authority and money (or resources). This is a great lesson for dispensationalists who insist only a physically present Christ can reign on the earth. This parable shows only that His return is to reconcile the accounting with His trustees; He need not be physically present in order for “occupation” to ensue (v. 13). The reign of God will be manifested through His trustees in His physical absence.
This explains our plight as well. The unbeliever hates Christ and refuses to accept His reign over them. The trustees are required to take the resources given to them and “occupy till He comes” (v. 13). Occupying, in this parable, means increasing the pounds, or resources, as ruling trustees over the property. When the nobleman returns, the trustees are judged on “how much every man had gained by trading” (v. 15).
Matthew 25:14 states that the nobleman “called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.” What we have is not our own. Our gifts, talents, and resources are His goods, and they are delivered to us as trustees to administer. The larger purpose, therefore, governing our administration of His goods is the mission of expanding His reign. Metaphorically described as gaining by trading in Luke 19:15, we understand the extension of His rule is by means of our making more out of our resources for the purpose of His Kingdom. This can only happen when you take the position of a trustee in all areas of life; and a trustee will elevate the purpose of the Kingdom above all he does.
The great sin of this parable lies with the third servant who hid his pound. His reasoning was simple, but greatly flawed: “Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow” (Luke 19:20–21). For many, the response of this servant is quite sensible: try not to lose what was given to you and call it even! But the flaw in logic came right out of the servant’s mouth:
And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? (vv. 22–23)
If we know our Lord is an austere (severe, strict) man, then not multiplying is not an option. Yet, an even greater principle is being taught here: the Lord will take up where He did not lay down, and reap where He did not sow. Here again we see His physical absence has no bearing on the expansion of His reign. Although He is the creator and sustainer of all things, He expects to take up what we lay down, and reap what we sow. He Himself shall not personally invade every area of life, but shall send us into each arena to lay down and sow for His great reaping.
Burying Our Resources
The wicked servant buried his pound due to his faulty religious reasoning: he confused the means with the end. He saw the true value in the pound itself, and therefore did not consider that for which the money was given. It’s like confusing seed and harvest. The pound was simply a measurable resource of seed that the nobleman expected to become a harvest by the administrative abilities of his trustee. Because the servant did not elevate the purpose and mission of the seed-resource above himself, he saw it as the goal instead, and therefore protected the pound with all his might.
We sin in this manner routinely. To use the illustration of marriage again, we can have a “good” marriage, yet still be considered lazy servants because we’ve made a good marriage the end instead of the means to the end. This is to bury our God-given resource. Our marriages are seeds toward a greater harvest; and God expects of us multiplication. The easiest way to “multiply” is the most obvious: having children. If possible, a Christian couple should look to have children and to teach them also to elevate the Kingdom of God above their respective families. In this way, all future generations will be Kingdom-driven at the root.
This misconception may lie at the root of abuse in Christian male authority in the home. The danger inherent in some expressions of Christian patriarchy is misunderstanding the trustee family,2 and this results in what amounts to a baptized domestic family. When you bear the title “patriarchy,” the less informed will therefore make establishing the position of the father as the end. This can easily lead to abuse, as some have testified. Our need of Biblical fathers is to point the direction of the family, its members, and their respective callings, to glorifying God by the building of the Kingdom of God—this is the true nature of glorifying the Lord.
We glorify God by extending His reign, and we extend His reign by multiplying our resources and abilities. The family is a trustee empowered with administrative authority to advance the reign of Christ in every area of life. The father’s role is to instruct the family members in this regard, not simply to instruct the family in his role or position as father. The family must understand first that it is a collective, covenantal trusteeship responsible to Christ and His Kingdom.
The Kingdom for Which We Were Created
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Matt. 6:25)
This is the life of faith: to live in abandonment to God’s purposes with the absolute trust that He knows what we need and will surely care for us more than many sparrows (Matt. 10:31). However, this verse is often misread to justify a monastic life of simplicity and near-poverty. In fact, even the reasonable unbeliever often reasons this way when he says, “Well, at least I have my health!” In other words, life is more important than whether we have meat, and our physical well-being more important than whether we are adorned with expensive clothing—we should be appreciative of the important things, right?
There is nothing contradictory in taking the passage in that fashion, but it misses the greater meaning our Lord intended. If “life is more than meat” and “the body than raiment,” then is there not something in addition that is more important than even life and the body? There most certainly is, and Christ leads His hearers to that conclusion:
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:31–33)
Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing, yet we worry and toil for such things in the same manner as the unbeliever. Christ is not simply requiring us to be thankful that we’re alive or healthy; He’s showing us that as life and body are greater than meat and clothing, so the Kingdom of God and His righteousness are greater than life and body. As He says elsewhere, “[F]ear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
The unbeliever lives in the fear of man. He lives in the fear of scarcity and provision. He’s also consumed with laying in store for this life only. But as the parable of the rich man demonstrates (Luke 12:16–21), being rich toward God requires that we find no rest in the abundance of our wealth, for “this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20). And to be rich toward God (v. 21) means that rich men “do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come” (1 Tim. 6:18–19).
God is not asking the rich man to give away all his wealth to have treasure in heaven. Nor is He demanding us merely to be grateful for having life and body. The issue is the “firstness” of the Kingdom of God, and our central passion must be to use our resources for the establishment of God’s order of righteousness. An unbelieving man can be thankful for his health and general well-being, but this hardly makes him effective in God’s Kingdom.
We are not to be concerned with food and raiment because our concern must be dominated by the advancing Kingdom. That’s why God is so faithful to feed the ravens that “neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn” (Luke 12:24), because if the raven began to sow and reap for its own provision, the “kingdom” of the created order would break down. God wants nothing upon the raven’s mind but the purpose and kingdom for which he was created. In like manner, nothing should occupy the central purpose of our lives but the affairs of the Kingdom for which we were created.
We should live the Kingdom-driven life, which means discovering God’s purpose and then finding our place in it. It means understanding that everything we have, all that we do, and every relationship in which we are involved, serves the greater purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. A poor man understands what it means to hunger and thirst. Christ seeks to redirect that base human passion into an obsession for His righteousness, i.e., the establishment of God’s justice and order throughout the world until the tares are so few that the angels can pluck them out with ease.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Chariots of Prophetic Fire: Studies in Elijah and Elisha (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2003), 2.
2. See Andrea Schwartz, “The Biblical Trustee Family” Faith for All of Life,
November/December 2007, 30.
Topics: Christian Reconstruction, Church, The, Dispensationalism, Church History, New Testament History, Biblical Commentary, Eschatology, Epistles, The, Gospels, The, Dominion, Culture , R. J. Rushdoony, Family & Marriage, Economics, Reformed Thought, Biblical Law