When earthly kingdoms pass to new owners, something becomes of their treasure. In wartime, a retreating army might take valuable possessions with it, or destroy the infrastructure of its own community to prevent the enemy from using the spoils of war as an advantage.
Throughout history, enlightened conquerors have spared great cultural centers and negotiated truces to avoid the needless decimation of art and architecture. There is even a famous story about Pope Leo I, who is credited with convincing Attila the Hun to spare Rome in 452. As a result, the Romans were able to keep their city and their treasures.
The nature of kingdom wealth leads us to consider what happens when God’s kingdom comes to earth in the form of His church. By “church”, I am referring literally to members of the body of Christ, in whom, and through whom the kingdom is expanding. Is God in the business of confiscating people’s property when they declare citizenship in His kingdom, and if so, what is the process?
A short, simple answer to this last question is “no.” While some religious groups or “orders” ask their adherents to give their personal wealth to a common purse, this is certainly not a biblical concept. However, the answer “no” doesn’t tell the whole story.
The reason the answer is “no” is really because it is illogical to give someone something he already possesses. In the case of the kingdom, we cannot give God what is already His. Since everything belongs to God to begin with, anything we share for the cause of the kingdom is more of a return, or at the very least a “re-purposing” of something that was never really ours.
How did the title to our wealth become contorted? There is also a simple answer to this question: We gave away what wasn’t ours to give. If everything we possess comes from God, and we recklessly invest it in worldly pursuits, we should not be surprised if we end up feeling empty.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying it is a sin to spend our wealth on worldly goods. Even Jesus relied on the generosity of others who were willing to provide shelter and food for His ministry. And perhaps I should add, had it not been for a wealthy believer by the name of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ body might not have been made secure in a family tomb, and we might not have so great an apologetic rationale for our belief in His resurrection.
On the other hand, God always intended that we first ask, “How can I please Him with the blessings He has given me?” This is why He told Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
The place of wealth in the kingdom of God can be summed up this way: “As citizens of the kingdom we want to manage what has always belonged to God in a way that best accomplishes what God wants to do through us.” If this means we must buy an expensive vehicle so we can be successful in business, and in turn have more time or resources for God’s mission, then that is how we should use our blessings. If we can drive a clunker and use our wealth to pursue an education in a field where we believe God has called us, then that is what we should do. What we don’t want to do is see our blessings as a means of buying more “stuff” when we already have what we need. Not only is this poor kingdom stewardship, but it is also a recipe for a hollow existence. In addition, we don’t want to invest what we have in sinful activities, where God’s resources can be used to work directly in opposition to His purposes.
It all belongs to God. It always has, and it always will. Where “it” is used until God takes back what is His, is mostly up to us.