“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.”
As I meditate on the proverb quoted above that challenges the common viewpoint about rich and poor, I am forced to ask: What is the currency of the Kingdom of God?
When Jesus was asked to take a position on the controversial issue of Jews paying taxes to Caesar as their Lord, Jesus did what He was wont to do: He avoided answering them by giving them the very best answer possible. Do you recall how he responded? He called for one of His opponents to show Him a denarius (a Roman coin worth a laborer’s daily wage). He then asked them to identify whose image and whose inscription was on the coin. They responded correctly (if a little warily) that they were Caesar’s. Then came the punchline: “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (see Matthew 22:15-22)
Why was Jesus’ answer so powerful that it amazed those who heard Him? While the coinage of Rome had an image of Caesar and an inscription claiming the divinity of Caesar, Jesus and His Jewish hearers knew that they had the image of God and they bore testimony to their God’s divinity. The coinage of a kingdom or empire announces the authority and dominion of its ruler. Wherever it circulates, it bears a message, and the message is unmistakable. So what is the currency of God’s cosmic empire that has appeared so powerfully on earth? Humans are the image of God, and we are meant to announce His dominion as Creator and King.
With these things in mind, Disciple, I invite you to consider something profound with me: earthly wealth is of little consequence in the Kingdom of God, so one’s financial status and station is of little consequence as well. The poor have always been welcomed to enter God’s kingdom along with the wealthy. The slave has always been beckoned to come just as earnestly as the free person. Why? It is because the right heart toward and right treatment of the King and His human images are the only currency that matter here. This is what we call righteousness. Righteousness is what God values above all, and righteousness is a direct product of faith. Whatever someone may have (or not have) in their wallet, in their bank account, or under their mattress, God is seeking to find faith-born righteousness. His eyes are looking to see whose hearts toward Him and other people are right, and who treat Him and others with love (see Psalm 34:15).
Will you devote yourself, Disciple, to aligning your vision of earthly wealth and Kingdom wealth with that of your Master’s? He who was supremely “rich” became utterly “poor” from the earthly viewpoint (2 Corinthians 8:9). As those who are training under Him to become like Him, may we be willing, even eager, to use what the world deems valuable in order to rightly honor and love what our King deems valuable: our neighbor. Yes, Jesus gave us the green light to pay taxes to the earthly power that governs us, but that was hardly the main point He was making. Give your whole self to God, for you are His image and declare His greatness. One beautiful way to do this is to value and care for those around you who are His images as well. Give to God what is God’s.
Valued and learning to value the Kingdom way,