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The Kingdom of Me

In his fascinating book “Desiring the Kingdom”, David K. Smith explores and how the world competes with Jesus for our loves and desires. While talking about the form of religion that one experiences ‘at the mall’ (the worship of more, the pursuit of new), he writes the following statement: “the liturgy of consumption births in us a desire for a way of life that is destructive of creation itself; moreover, it births in us a desire for a way of life that we can’t feasibly extend to others, creating a system of privilege and exploitation. In short, the only way for this vision of this kingdom to be a reality is if we keep it to ourselves (pg. 101).”

                Ouch! If you are anything like me, these words hurt more than they should.

                But if you are uncertain about what Smith is saying, let’s make sense of it together:

  1. The whole point of Smith’s book is that human beings are primarily and fundamentally loving creatures. As opposed to the traditional point of view, that sees human beings as thinking things (“I think, therefore I am”), Smith claims human beings are not driven primarily by intellect and rationality, but by something a lot gutsier: love/desire.
  2. Smith then paints a picture in which God is seeking to conquer our love, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes delight in my ways” (Proverbs 23:26), while other things or people are also seeking to win our hearts. How? By telling our hearts what they really love. While God, through many different avenues, shows us who He is and what our life can we with Him; Starbucks, Nike and Netflix also have their ways to show us what they are and how good our lives could be with them in it.
  3. This is what Smith calls liturgy: what we do, with God or with the mall, that educates our loves and desire to follow Christ or follow something else. Why would we follow one or the other? Because they win us over with their picture of what good life can be.

Are you with me so far? To make it even simpler, let me say it this way: we are being sold different Kingdoms in which to live in, and our decision-making rests on what Kingdom seems to be more attractive to live in. We either love what our lives can be in God’s Kingdom, or we love what our lives can be in the mall’s kingdom.

  1. Smith then describes how the mall educates our hearts by telling them that the good life is getting the latest, shiniest, prettiest toy/clothing/gadget. If and when you get it, their vision of the good life has come true. You are now a happy man/woman… until the next best thing comes along.

What is the problem with this? Is it bad to get nice things?

  • The problem is that loving anything or anyone else that is not God always leaves us hungry for more. That’s why our love for the latest iPhone is only good for a year (or however long they take to come up with a new version of the same thing).
  • In our need for more, in order to meet our loves, we have created a huge cycle of production that someone has to fuel. New stuff doesn’t magically drop out of the sky, it needs to be made. And because profit needs to be a part of the equation, the stuff being made needs to be as cheap as it can possibly be.
  • Which leads us to the heart of this issue: the kingdom of the mall is the kingdom of me, and for that kingdom to continue existing, it cannot be shared with too many people. By necessity, the Good News of this Kingdom need to be withheld from some, or the much-needed cycle of new stuff would die out.

I am not a politician, nor do I specialize in financial systems. All that I am suggesting, as your humble pastor, is that a life focused on Me is a life that will, sooner or later, reject someone else. As sinful creatures, we cannot be both self-centered and other centered.

If I live in the Kingdom of Me, you only have a room as long as it benefits me.

If not, you better look for another Kingdom!

This is why I love Jesus so much!  “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

In the Kingdom of Us, the One sitting at the throne is a God who left Heaven behind in order to save you and I from our misery. Instead of thinking of Himself, and what He wanted, He thought of me. Instead of building an exclusive Kingdom, where everyone had to satisfy His needs, He built an inclusive One, where selfless love would be the currency.

A Kingdom where all would serve each other in love, seeking each other’s joyful betterment.

This is the picture of the good life that God gives you and me. And I am, maybe more than ever before, absolutely in love with it!