If you ever wanted proof and physical evidence of the truth, examine the outcome of people living the truth in most trying times throughout history. “Those of the way”, the first followers of Christ lived a certain kind of life, valued certain things, abstained from the things of the world, and organized themselves in a way that sustained them through the darkest of times of human history.
Like the Jews, Christians is the most persecuted religion in the world, at various times close to extinction,  yet the true church remnant survived. The Hebrew writer speaks about a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Now this phrase “once and for all” clearly indicates the final removal of things that are shaking, that is, the old order, so only what is unshakeable will remain. Since we are receiving our rights to an unshakeable kingdom we should be extremely thankful and offer God the purest worship that delights his heart as we lay down our lives in absolute surrender, filled with awe. For our God is a holy, devouring fire! (Heb 12:27-29). COVID 19, and the threat of even more severe viruses to come has magnified the unsustainable weak spots of materialistic humanistic naturalistic modernity, providing an excellent opportunity for the church to REBUILD the WASTE places. (Isa 58:12) Constructing a benevolent EDEN-Like society, with living stones of the Kingly nobility of the righteous!
Consider for a moment that the first believers of the NT church were mainly a persecuted church, first by the Jewish religious establishment and then also the secular humanistic Roman government. Martyrdom was part of daily life during the first decades of the early Christ-following community. Persecution is part of being a follower of Christ. (Mat 10:24; Luk 21:12-16; John 16:1-4; 15:20) Paul was witness himself of Stephen’s martyrdom, and later we read of Herod beheading James, John’s brother. (Acts 12:2) Later the converted apostle Paul vividly describes his own suffering. poorly clothed, beaten, and homeless… imprisonments often… five times I received forty stripes minus one…Three times I was beaten with rods… once I was stoned… three times I was shipwrecked. (Rom 8:35; 1 Cor 4:10-13a; 2 Cor 4:8-9; 6:4b-5, 8-10; 11:23b-29; 12:10; Phil 4:12). Most of the jewish believers, were disowned from their inheritance, family and means of income as they liberalised themselves from the yoke of Jewish laws and prescriptions.
To maintain one’s course, and purpose of preaching and living the message of the Kingdom under such violent threat with no personal gain, substantiate the meaningfulness of the content of the message.
The core ideals of the message of the Kingdom are to practice the ‘gospel of love and charity’ which included almsgiving and care for widows, orphans, slaves, travellers, the sick, the imprisoned and the poor under the threat of persecution, and even towards their persecutors! “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also (Luke 6:29); do not resist an evil person (Matt. 5:39); blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Matt. 5:10); if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20).” Paul and the other New Testament authors sustained and developed the theme that followers of Christ were to suffer, not fight, for their Lord. A believer’s weapons are spiritual, not composed of iron or bronze. (Eph. 6:13).
It should however be noted than in a relatively short period of 50-60 years covered in the NT, the church did not only survive, but thrived during these difficult times. Pro-Christian historians emphasized the random persecution of some of the Roman emperors, but the fact is: decades often passed between assaults on Christian groups and, while it’s true that several emperors did, in fact, go after Christians per se, most weren’t persecuting them for their religion but their wealth.
Paul himself was certainly not a poor beggar-type preacher: Travel by ship, with companions, moving offerings by cart over long distances to the various churches, and personal scribes cost a lot of money in those days. Paul must have come from a wealthy family being offered the privilege to be trained under the prestigious teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Paul a recipient of legal roman citizenship, and appointed Pharisaical privileges made him used to power and status. Paul also owned a tent-making enterprise, a lucrative specialized industry in biblical times. Because inns were filthy or nonexistent, tents were luxury items for wealthy travelers and, more importantly, they were standard equipment for Roman legions, especially during the winter. Paul was held in special custody by Felix and Festus in Caesarea for a lengthy period of time (Acts 24:27). It seems unlikely that these governors would have accommodated Paul as a “house- guest” for such a long time, even if under house arrest, if he had not been a man of great influence and social stature. Felix “had hopes of a bribe from Paul; and for this reason sent for him often and talked with him” (Acts 24:26).
The immanent new JESUS counter-culture movement held high moral values, and ethics, particularly when it came to money. The Didache, or “The Teaching of the Twelve,” dates back to the second century revealing a practical hard-hitting ethical code of protocol regarding money.
Do not be one who holds his hand out to take, but shuts it when it comes to giving. If your labor has brought you earnings, pay a ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give and do not give with a bad grace, for you will discover who He is that pays you back a reward with a good grace. Do not turn your back on the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing your own. For if you have what is eternal in common, how much more should you have what is transient!… Now about the apostles and prophets: Act in line with the gospel precept. Welcome every apostle on arriving, as if he were the Lord. But he must not stay beyond one day. In case of necessity, however, the next day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. On departing, an apostle must not accept anything save sufficient food to carry him till his next lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.…
Give this Jesus-culture room and time to mature over 40 years and you will see immanent economic wealth of family-centered enterprises, self-sustainable communities, their intrinsic philanthropic benevolent actions towards the most marginalized making them the most-loved and revered businesses in society.
Like the creation story the genesis of the church started with divine provision to sustain it.
- The first Church in Jerusalem “No one Lacked” (Acts 4:34)
- Bearing the fruits of righteousness and the fruit of the spirit, are the most basic attributes for any business enterprise and improved employment. Wesley noted that in the old days of Methodism, the people were poor. But, he observed, in the 20, 30, or 40 years since they joined the society, many Methodists had become 20, 30, or even 100 times richer than they were at first. With this increase in wealth had come a decrease in godliness. It seemed to him the more money the Methodists had, the less they loved the Lord.
- Speaking to the rich (1 Tim 6:17; James 5:1-6) means there were wealthy people too, who came to the faith.
- Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:110)
- Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10:1-48)
- Roman centurion who believed. (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:5)
- Erastus, a major benefactor of public works in Corinth (Romans 16:23)
- The Ethiopian Treasurer (Acts 8:26-40)
- Lydia (Acts 16:13-15, 40)
- Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)
- Joseph, called Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37)
It is henceforth evident that living the message of the Kingdom and following the Kingdom-eternal pursuits and lifestyle does eventually benefit the user “all these things shall be added to you” as promised by Jesus when we seek first His righteousness and Kingdom. It is thus the purpose of this study to rediscover the unshakable Kingdom practices for the best way to do live.
Preach this kingdom message to the Poor
Jesus pertinent answer to John’s disciples to validate His ministry has special significance because of this one line: “the poor hear the gospel of the Kingdom preached to them.” (Mat 11:4) It is also at the core of His messianic mandate: “anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luk 4:18) Jesus did feed the multitude, but he did not start a feeding program, a housing project, or a school or ECD centre. His gift to the poor was a message! Everyone who adheres to this message and follow Him and His instructions get to all take care of the poor, the poor too! Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need (Eph 4:28)
What makes this message so special, that it would really help the poor? Poverty alleviation is a very complicated pursuit, with no easy solutions.
First, let us discover what is poverty from a biblical perspective?
Former Zimbabwean Farmer Boet Pretorius, explained that one-sides human-aid from the rich amplifies god complexes and strengthens inferiority complexes if not done from a Biblical world-view perspective. “Who are the poor?”
- Poor relationship with God –Poverty of Intimacy
- Poor relationship with myself- Poverty of Being
- Poor relationship with family – Poverty of Trust
- Poor relationship with community- Poverty of Security
- Poor relationship with Creation- Poverty of Stewardship
From the biblical perspective all mankind is considered poor, and in need of healthy relationships. Therefor the gospel is for all of mankind. The economically rich may default on all 5 these relationships measured against a biblical definition of poverty.
One of Jordan Peterson’s “Rules for Life as an antidote to Chaos” see society as a fundamentally hierarchical structure.
The top 1% have as much loot as the bottom 50% — and where the richest eighty-five people have as much as the bottom three and a half billion. That same brutal principle of unequal distribution applies outside the financial domain—indeed, anywhere that creative production is required. The majority of scientific papers are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books. A million and a half separately titled books.
This phenomenon is well summarized by Jesus in the parable of the talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. (Mat 25:29) Life is thus a lifelong struggle to assemble enough skills, knowledge, resources, victories, accomplishments, appearance, wealth, status to secure a safe and peaceful future for you and your offspring. Many unfortunately desperately fail!
Lobsters, one of the oldest species to survive, have a similar battle to secure themselves the best safe location, food, and mating partners. The lobster who achieve a victory gets a good dose of serotonin that makes them change their posture, they become confident, and begin to make bigger bolder movements, a bit cocky, which off course helps them to win the next victory. The ones who have lost, withdraw, becomes timid, scrunched up, inhibited, drooping, skulking sort of lobster. We see the same reaction in human beings. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness. But it is not only the economically poor who are inhibited: Divorce, unemployment, business venture failure, terminal sickness, and many other life’s struggles makes one feel hopelessly discouraged and depressed. Life in reality is complicated, hard and increasingly difficult.
So, what is the message of the Kingdom, and how is it going to help all of us who suffer from the spiritual, emotional, physical, social, financial, vocational, intellectual poverty???
The Good news of the Message of the Kingdom is:
God gives no-bodies, average people, the least, the fools, the poor, the fisherman Royal Status to become God’s own children! “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luk 7:28) Sinners, lepers, tax-collectors, feeble and sick people get invited and translated from an earthly temporary existence to an eternal, immortal, holy habitation!
The whole NT is full of the language of royalty discribing God’s people: the Elect, chosen,
Chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people (1 Pet 2:9)
Reign in life (Rom 5:17)
Saints (Rom 1:7)
Seated with Christ (Eph 2:6)
His workmanship (Eph 2:10)
All Authority (Eph 1:22-23)
By the GREAT ATONEMENT of Christ He has provided for us an eternal, perfect, position, and status – THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of CHRIST! (Mat 6:33; Rom 14:17; Rom 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21) It is to this really that Paul prays “may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” to the calling, inheritance and power we collectively have in Christ!! So very few people in Christ, really see this spiritual reality.
This royal inheritance and status is not to be achieved, or earned. It is given by birth, being born-again by the Spirit. (John 3:5; 1Pet 1:23) Like born royals we have to learn to act accordingly, the law being our tutor. (Gal 3:24)
To have this wonderful new identity, status, position, inheritance, power, and glory one must off-course DIE, surrender, abandon, all SELF. (Mat 16:14; Rom 6:11; Gal 2:20) So that the CONFIDENCE He gives be not in any of OUR own fleshly performances and accomplishments! This new life in Christ is a GIFT, a GRACE, a divine enablement of which we became partakers! (John 1:12; 2Pet 1:3-4)
Now this is all great to write on paper; but remember the saints of the New Testament had no wealth, power, knowledge, prestige to boast about. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor 1:26) that no flesh should glory in His presence.(v29). But most importantly, the followers of the way received a new sound mind (1 Cor 2.16; 2 Tim 1:7) A completely new way of seeing oneself.
It is with this new IMAGE in mind that Paul writes:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
According to Henry Cloud, Daniel Siegel professor at UCLA a leading Neurobiologist summarise the triangle of well-being as Physical makeup, Mental health and Relational well-being.  Most people will certainly agree that feeling fit and healthy, having a sound productive mind, and some wholesome friends whom are authentic, stimulating us to be the best version of ourselves is a good summery of ‘that-is-life’. Off-course one needs to develop and find a meaningful vocation that earns not only a pay-check but enables us to make a meaningful contribution to mankind. We are emotional beings that needs to express our emotions in a healthy way to energize us to be the best we can be. Knowing oneself, (identity) and making peace with ‘being’ grounds you, but also positions you to take responsibility for your own life, and face life’s obstacles. Finally we all live somewhere in a location, where using all the available natural resources responsibly as good stewards to improve the spacial environment makes one feel good, and others too!
HOWEVER!!! What to do when like Job, you lose all your possessions, wealth, health, status and family in one moment?
This is the CORE of the Kingdom Message: Without a spiritual connection of oneness with God our Creator made possible in a personal intimate relationship with Jesus His only begotten Son who gives us inner peace and joy one’s life is empty, and one remains poor!!
The gift of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ, is the pearl of great price, (Mat 13:46) the hidden treasure in a field (Mat 13:44) as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2 Cor 6:9-10) Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13) When one spends time with economically poor mature believers, these verses come alive in faces and stories of people living a supernatural, simple existence of being rich in their knowledge of God, selfless ego, interdependent family and community life without any of the modernities the western world hold dear. Even in the midst of severe persecution, these believers act with noble royal resolve and inward dignity.
From this new MIND, awakened to the inner reality of Christ within, God gives us a list of Kingdom activities and actions to do, that incarnate Christ in the flesh through His body of believers! These activities makes the invisible unshakable kingdom and reign of God visible, in specific locations all over the earth. Here is a short list, of kingdom practice and realities.
Strengthened in the Inner man (Eph 3:16)
Rooted and grounded in His love (Eph 3:17)
Receive the power to change and be transformed from our sinful, evil nature. (Rom 1:16)
Continuously being filled with the Spirit Eph 5:18; Col 3:16 and resulting spontaneous expressions of worship.
The gifts of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12-14)
The Fruit of the Spirit and righteousness in Christ (Gal 5:21-22)
According to the natural hierarchal pecking order of man sharing and giving is reserved for the rich and powerful, now the POOR become the givers, sharing their all, and loving the unloved and underserving! (Acts 4:34-35)
Servanthood is no longer a curse, but the Dignity of a king, who helps and support his fellow-human-being on their way.
The power to overcome the battles of people’s destructive hierarchal pecking order gymnastics with the opposite spirit! (1 Pet 2:15)
The most amazing revelation is to understand how all these activities, releases a natural doses of serotonin to the practitioner. Makes you feel good! These activities becomes like wins under the belt, like the lobster who has been victorious. Triumphs in life makes one feel good, and help you gain confidence, but it is not lasting. Even the best winners, may feel very insecure and threatened by the upcoming competitors. Our confidence is never based on our achievements, it is the humble knowing that it was Christ who strengthened me to give, to love, to believe, to heal, to go, to speak. We are dead, and have been crucified with Christ, the life we now live is received by faith on a daily basis, so that no flesh can boast. It is this holy divine presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit that keeps us, and sustains us.
Followers of the new and living WAY of Christ, thus have an eternal unchangeable reason to pull our shoulders back, stand up straight and confidently do what He commands us to do, in the midst of trials, tribulations, troubles, tribulation, and temptations! Now, is this not good news to the poor?
 Chapter 21: How Rich Was Paul? John W. Welch
 “The Gallery—Church Fathers and Their Thoughts on Wealth,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 14: Money in Christian History: Part I (1987)
 Charles Edward White, “Four Lessons on Money,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 19: Money in Christian History: Part II (1988)
 Pocket guide to interpersonal Neurobiology, an integrative handbook of the mind as quoted by Dr Henry Cloud, The power of other.
Peterson, J., Ingendaay, M. and Müller, M., n.d. 12 Rules For Life.
Cloud, D., 2016. Power Of The Other. Harpercollins.