Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
Oliver Wendell Holmes famously observed, “Some people are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.” This sentiment comes from the mistaken belief that God does not ultimately care about this world, and He’s only in the business of rescuing souls off a sinking ship. In the beginning He may have created the heavens and the earth, but some of us act as if the Lord has now retired into fulltime church work.
This earth-denying posture is evident when Christians say things like “I’m just passing through on my way to heaven” and “This world is not my home” as if we are mere tourists on planet Earth. Indeed, the Bible does call us “citizens of heaven” (see Philippians 3:20), but citizenship in the ancient world was understood very differently.
To be a citizen of Rome, for example, meant you carried the responsibilities of a colonist, not a tourist. It was the Roman citizen’s duty to transplant the values, customs, and structures of Rome wherever they lived. The goal was not to someday escape from Philippi, for example, and return to Rome, but instead to work for the transformation of Philippi into the image of Rome.
So, when Paul referred to Christians as “citizens of heaven,” he didn’t mean to say we had no responsibilities for this world. In fact, he meant precisely the opposite. It is our responsibility to cultivate the Kingdom of heaven right where we are just as our Lord taught us to pray: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
There are many ways in which this happens, but one of the most powerful is through the generosity of God’s people. As we explored earlier, the world is enslaved by a vision of scarcity. Fearing there isn’t enough, citizens of the world fight, cheat, lie, steal and hoard to protect themselves. Citizens of heaven live very differently. They recognize the abundance of God’s provision, therefore they are generous to a degree the world often cannot comprehend. And each citizen is generous in different ways and with whatever “currency” the Lord has given them.
Consider the example of the Early Church in Jerusalem. We are repeatedly told that the believers generously shared their belongings and possessions (Acts 2:45), no one was greedy but shared everything in common (Acts 4:32), there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34) and they had “generous hearts” leading them to share their lives, homes and tables (Acts 2:46). These radical expressions of Kingdom generosity are possible because citizens of heaven trust in the abundance of God rather than succumb to the scarcity of the earth. And as these foreign but beautiful forms of generosity were seen by others, they were drawn into the Kingdom of God as well.
Generosity is often seen as a necessary practice in order to fund the mission of God’s Kingdom. That is certainly true, but we need to enlarge our vision. Whole-Life Generosity doesn’t merely fund God’s Kingdom; generosity itself is how we display God’s Kingdom. It is an important way we work together to cultivate heaven right here on earth.
Reflect: In what way does your church or local community of Christians live differently than the surrounding culture? How can you, together, more effectively display the generosity of God’s Kingdom?
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).