“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Scripture reveals that the Kingdom Jesus instructed us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer carries a radical hope for people living with poverty and injustice. In God’s Kingdom there are no starving children. In God’s Kingdom no one will be exploited. Truly, the Kingdom Jesus proclaims is good news for those on the margins.
I worry that we have it all wrong. Our vision of the Kingdom is too easily blurred and co-opted by our culture.
Take a minute to imagine the world as God intended it. As though His Kingdom has come and His will is being done. Scripture is clear that we serve a God of abundance who wants everyone to experience fullness of life – both spiritually and physically. I doubt any of us believe the fulfilment of the Lord’s Prayer would include people living with any type of poverty. For most of us, we understand that this prayer and the message of the Gospel gives a biblical mandate for us to work for a more just and compassionate world. However, I wonder if sometimes our understanding of the Lord’s Prayer as fulfilled through integral mission is more focused on changing circumstances for others living far away in Africa or Asia than it is on also how the Gospel should change our own lives.
Is perhaps the middle class Australian lifestyle as troubling to God as the material poverty faced by our brothers and sisters around the world?
Throughout the Scriptures we see that God opposes injustice and oppression. In Amos and Malachi, for example, God calls both nations and individuals to repent for benefiting from the oppression of others. This presents an enormous challenge to us if our Australian way of life is built upon unjust systems!
There are many ways to consider this, but let’s focus on the injustice of inequality. Much has been written of late about the challenges of growing inequality in Australia and around the world. The statistics about the concentration of the world’s wealth in the hands of a few are so overwhelming they are hard to fathom. Wealth is increasingly being held by a small subset of society while the vast majority struggle – which is not good for overall quality of life. Indeed, the biblical principle of Jubilee, in which every 50 years debt is cancelled and land redistributed in order to guard against extreme economic inequality, points to God’s heart for economic equity. The value of equality is echoed in research published in the book The Spirit Level (and many other studies) which affirm that societies with greater equality also have happier and healthier citizenry.
From my experience, few of us connect our own lifestyles into this inequality narrative. We look up the economic ladder at those with more wealth than us. Our news sources tell us that it is billionaires – the one per cent – who are the biggest beneficiaries of increasing inequality. But how often do we look back down the ladder to consider how high we are compared to the majority of the world’s population? Looking down may well make us dizzy, as it’s a long, long way to the bottom. Light-headed from the sight, we may be tempted to shut our eyes, pretending we’re not so high. However, it could be that our lifestyle is contributing to the inequality problem. The need for reflection and prayer is clear.
One challenge lies with our consumption patterns. To gain a sense of the resources needed to sustain your own lifestyle, visit www.footprintcalculator.org.
If we are over-consuming planetary resources in order to maintain our lifestyle at the expense of others, there are some challenging questions to consider: Are we living unjust lives? Is our lifestyle a barrier for others who want to be free from poverty? Is the environmental impact of our overconsumption hurting others and betraying our commitment to the Kingdom? Is our prayer for ‘thy kingdom come’ just shallow words which echo as hypocritical when we reflect on our lifestyle?
It is, for me, a continual challenge to check my heart and my motivations and pursue a lifestyle that has my heart anchored in the Kingdom.
Hold onto these questions and consider another: Where is your treasure?
Just a few verses after Jesus asks us to pray “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done”, he presents us with some very challenging messages about money and wealth.
The Bible makes it clear that an unhealthy relationship to money and wealth becomes a barrier to our ability to embody the Kingdom. The Lord’s Prayer is a call to live more simply and more generously. This is essential if we hope to live for the Kingdom. This is hard (like a camel going through the eye of a needle). This is counter-cultural (store your treasures in heaven). This is liberating (all these things will be given to you).
I certainly do not pretend any of this is easy. My family feels the same cultural pressures and temptations to “be normal Australians” and consume more and more. We are regularly tempted to define what is acceptable based on how everyone around us lives rather than by the challenging Scriptural call for radical discipleship. It is, for me, a continual challenge to check my heart and my motivations and pursue a lifestyle that has my heart anchored in the Kingdom.
I don’t write any of this to make you feel guilty. I don’t think guilt is the answer and, if anything, it will likely change nothing. But complacency is a barrier to real change. Thankfully, we serve a God who is gracious and whose Spirit is actively working in our lives. It is through God that change can happen in our hearts, minds and lives. Jesus called his followers to live differently – to be salt and light. The gospel isn’t about being content as a middle-class Australian. It is about living faithfully, which often means living in ways antithetical to society’s expectations.
Take a minute to re-imagine the world as God intended it. As though His Kingdom has come and His will is being done. May this be our prayer and our radical hope.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
– Matthew 6:19-24