This is a blog, so I’m not going to be embarrassed to be a bit stream of consciousness about this. So the fact that I just got to experience a lovely Jamie Soles Concert has got me thinking…
There must be such a thing as Christian economics because the Bible is a book about managing this world.
The Bible’s first book is about how God made the world, how the world was put under the management of the human race, and how they botched that management. The rest of that book and all the other books of the Bible, is about how the management is restored.
But the rule of the world is the point. Under God. For his glory. But still this world.
In the Bible we read about Elijah being taken up in a chariot of fire (“a horse named blaze” as Jamie would say). That seems as “otherworldly” as you could get doesn’t it?
So what does Elisha say as he witnesses this ascension?
“Wow. We’re being visited from the other world”?
And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2.12).
Israel was a nation. It had kings who were visible and known to the other nations. It had an army. It had national resources and wealth that others could covet. And it had fiery horses and chariots.
Elisha knew what he saw because he had read about it before.
Jacob saw them first.
When Jacob went out from the Promised Land he prayed for “earthly” blessings:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
Give us this day our daily bread.
But God did better than bread and clothing. When Jacob re-entered the Promised Land he prayed again:
And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
Two camps? Jacob has just divided his family, servants, and property into two camps to protect them. But that was a contrivance. The meaning of “two camps” is a few verses earlier:
Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
I wish the translators had not reverted to Hebrew when they have the name. “Mahanaim” means two camps. Jacob named the place two camps because the camp with his wives, children, servants, and livestock, and camp of God’s servants were both his camps. He had become two camps by God’s blessing.
This is one reason the term “the spirituality of the Church” is so offensive. Not because the Church isn’t spiritual, but because spirituality is not Spiritual. The slogan presupposes Biblical nonsense as the definition of “spirituality.”
God wants this world managed, claimed, ruled by him through human beings. He wants the humans who have joined with His human son to manage the world together (or the parts over which they have been given management) in such a way that everyone else can see and recognize as the work of the Spirit (John 17).
Oh but this world is not our home. Excrement passing itself off as piety. This world is the only one that is and it will be our perfect home as it and we are transformed.
But that doesn’t happen until the resurrection. True but only if you acknowledge that your resurrection is an commendation of your management of this world in this life. You are a steward and your stewardship right now is going to be reflected in the glory you are graciously given. (And if you think that last sentence contains a contradiction, please feel free to stop reading this blog post and pick up a Bible some time and read it; come back when you’re done.) God promises to praise you for your management and for your learning to manage. According to Paul, trusting God to praise you is the essence of inward spirituality and true faith (Romans 2.29).
The Spirit hovered over the empty, dark, shapeless, creation and filled it, enlightened it, and shaped it. We as Spiritual people should take that as our model. We are two camps in this life.
Not only do we live in a religious culture (we Reformed and even we broadly Evangelical) that suppresses the Bible, but we do it by hiding in plain sight.
The Church is called “a colony of heaven.” Ask the native Americans what that analogy should imply (which, included much sin, I am sure, but the point still stands). But this term is used to support amillennial defeatism. So I have to now come up with a new word whose obvious meaning hasn’t been yet subverted.
The Church is Jesus’ beachhead. It is a part of this world meant to be a start, not a waiting room.
Jesus the human ascended into heaven in order to rule this world. And thus he gave us his marching orders:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Again, Amillennial books are written about this Great Commission in order to subvert its plain meaning. If we create a culture of misinterpretation we can denude the force of God’s word.)
Of course, many individuals (all, ultimately) are not given the management they want. Many are given none that they expect. Our children die early and many other tragedies befall us.
But what does that change? Jacob’s life was Hell on earth and yet he was instrumental in saving the world and blessed the Emperor.
Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.
The management of this world is a group project directed by a mysterious providence. Dominion comes through the way of the cross. I’m not denying any of that.
Pretending I am doing so is a strategy of suppression at best.
But the Bible is still about the management, stewardship, rule of this world. It is a story about the building of a city, which the LORD Himself is building, for otherwise the laborers would labor in vain (Psalm 127).
But refusing to labor is still treason. And real earthly children are still an asset (Psalm 127)
And the Bible is all about economics. There cannot fail to be Christian economics.
Either there is Christian economics or Christianity is unrelated to the Bible.