Explorations in Theology

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Economic, religious and political rule

There are many ways in which the temptations of Jesus can be viewed. We can certainly learn from them at a personal level, but the temptations are the temptations that the agent of the kingdom had to face. Although ordered slightly differently in Matthew and Luke the same three are recorded.

  • Turn the stones into bread.
  • Throw yourself down from the Temple.
  • Bow and you have all these kingdoms (and Luke specifically the ready-made Imperial system).

The response to the ‘stones into bread temptation’ was that Jesus was called to a deeper source of sustenance – to every word that came from heaven; the response to the ‘throw yourself down’ was not to put the Lord to the test; and the response to the ‘offer of the kingdoms’ was to worship and serve God’.

I suggest we can look at the first temptation as an economic one, to gain sustenance and resource through an abuse of miraculous power; the second as a religious temptation with God serving the pre-set agenda with protection; and the final one as a political rule temptation with the marrying into the system to exercise a ‘godly’ agenda.

What a trio, and a trio that are intertwined, a three-fold cord that is not easily broken. A trio that one could argue could have served the ‘kingdom’ agenda and enabled the message to be spread quickly and efficiently.

I have heard too many times ‘that is just the way it is in business / economics’. Yes, I guess it often is, but if to that statement is brought the ‘every word’ that comes from God we really do need to see an adjustment. From the exposure of (all varieties of) ‘consumerism’ in Gen. 3: ‘I saw, I desired and I consumed’; to the prohibitions not to maximise profits; to the command to care for the ‘widow, alien and orphan’; to the appointment of Judas to look after the money bag. Every word seems consistent, and Jesus certainly hit that big one on the head.

The religious agenda is where we have a vision and God will back it up. And back it up he often does, with the very clear example of the anointing of the king for Israel so that they might be like the other nations. He backs it up cos he goes where we go (after all he also walked out of Eden with them), and then there comes a time when he does not back it up and we end up perplexed. When he does not we are to open our eyes to where we have served religion and the ever so polished up religious agenda.

Of course, politics and what I have written on the political nature of the Gospel is so key, and I consider that Jesus broke the economic power structures so that he could then clearly observe the economic exploitative system that ‘robs widows of their houses’ was being undone when it sought to swallow also the last coins of a widow, leading him to prophesy the end of an era that had deteriorated into religion and exclusivity (rather than faith and inclusivity) so that the likes of Paul ‘apostle to the nations’ could spend the last days in Rome. From economics through religion (that had swallowed the economic exploitative system) to the ungodly marriage of religion and politics being pulled apart… so that there might be the hope of ‘the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and Messiah’.

In Ukraine all three of these powers are manifest. A re-ordering of the world of economics is at hand, with the big ‘winner’ being the Imperial power of China who has no need to enter the current conflict at a military level, but is winning the war economically. Sanctions are a response, but we as body of Christ, have to pull deeper, drop down lower. Economic sanctions imposed by a Western ideology that has bowed at the feet of ‘the invisible hand of the market’. I am pro-sanctions (but what do I know?) but as always I consider there are keys within the body of Christ, and those keys are closer to home than we might realise.There is a battle religiously, with views of Christendom being at the forefront, and of course that of political rule.

We need great help from heaven. Angels coming. Angels holding back advancing forces; causing confusion, opening prison doors. (Thanks to this understanding through a conversation with Elly Lloyd.) Unashamedly ask the Lord to send angels, for Jesus was attended to by angels in that wilderness battle.

We are in global shifts. We have to lift our eyes as well as express the pain. And as we lift our eyes we will see body of Christ shifts. Not pushed to the margins. Nor seated at the centre. But both hidden and visible within the place that has sought to displace God with economic, religious and political rule.

The big questions of Ukraine and what are we to do are beyond me. The personal questions are present as always.

One thought on “Economic, religious and political rule

  1. I read a book awhile ago that really helped me understand our current context. It was about the beginnings of civilization, wheat/grain cultivation and resistance to that. Because we are immersed in the present system we don’t often see it well. We don’t see alternatives. But humankind has not always lived in cities or in capitalistic economic systems or anything that we are used to. There is nothing inevitable about our context. In fact, most of what we think is normal has only been around a short time in terms of human history.

    However the rise of statelets (small city states) occurs with the development of grain cultivation and a reordering of life. Humans went from pastoral lifestyles or hunter/gatherers to settled in places engaging in varied forms of agriculture. There was great resistance to this over hundreds of years met with increasing force by the emerging states and cities. There was a strong emphasis on subduing those elements that did not want to settle into ‘civilized’ life. This has continued on to this day.

    The climate parameters under which this social/political/economic structure operated is gone. Over. Done. What we do next is up to us. How will we organize ourselves in the new climate we have created? What kind of economics, social organization and politics will be required? What is sustainable in terms of community and the organization of polities? All things we are learning now as changes and shifts come whether we feel ready for them or not.

    In light of this massive shift many feel the need to create something new that is really something old. They look to the past, often a mythologized past to assert what must be. Putin is doing this in Ukraine with his attempt to recreate imperial Russia. Many churches do this with a mythologized and glorified past where people lived the way they should – usually posited as pre-feminisim, pre-birth control, pre-civil rights in the USA. Others look ahead. They see options, alternatives and choices. They seek a better place for all including women and minorities. Those seeking to reconstruct a lost past will lose in this as, again, the emerging climate does not support those structures. The recent past or even a more distant past cannot be recreated. It will not hold for a long term. It might succeed in the moment but that is all it can hope for.

    That is not to say that the future we create will be good for all or reject authoritarianism or totalitarianism. New forms of those are always possible. But the future cannot and will not be the past as it is irrevocably gone. Forever. It is very much up to us what comes next, how we get there, and the narratives we create and use to guide us.

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