The Economic Implications of God’s Kingdom
The book of Acts is about the advancement of God’s kingdomthrough the followers of Jesus in the 1st century Mediterraneanworld. The book begins with a report that Jesus spent 40 post-resurrection daysinstructing his apostles about the kingdom of God (1:3) and ends with Paulproclaiming the kingdom of God unhindered in Rome (28:30-31). Despite manytribulations and obstacles along the way, God’s kingdom, through theannouncement of the gospel of Jesus, advanced and flourished (6:7; 9:31; 12:24;16:5; 19:20).
The implications of God’s kingdom upon the world includedmore than just heart changes within individuals. It also impacted the social,political, and economic aspects of wider society. In Acts 19, for instance,Paul’s preaching of the kingdom actually had an impact on the economy,specifically the economy of the idol-making trade in Ephesus. In the story, a certainsilversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines to the goddess Artemis, ralliedtogether those of similar trades and said: “Men, you know that from thisbusiness we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus butin almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great manypeople, saying that gods made with human hands are not gods. And there isdanger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also thatthe temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that shemay even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the worldworship” (19:25-27). This speech led to a near riot and nearly endangered thelives of Paul and his companions. But the point to take away: the proclamationof God’s kingdom has inescapable social and economic implications. In the caseof Acts 19, those who responded to the Paul’s preaching could no longer bedevoted to paganism, could no longer pay money to purchase idols, and thus thebusinesses that relied on these things were economically impacted for the worse– and they did not like that very much.
For us today, we have to realize that a faithful response tothe gospel of God’s kingdom will inevitably put us at odds with wider society,especially when we denounce and refuse to participate in practices that areeconomically prosperous for some. As a modern example, billions of dollars aremade each year on the routine killing of children in the womb. And just as thegospel calls us to turn away from idols to the one true God, it also calls usto love and care for every person, as God does, which includes the unborn. Afaithful response to the gospel requires a denouncement of abortion (amongother injustices) and an unwillingness to participate in the practice,regardless of what it might do to businesses that make a profit from it.Ultimately, as Paul turned his world “upside down” (17:6), when we announce thegospel of Jesus and live out our kingdom calling, we will inevitably do thesame.