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Is Gods Reign (Kindom) Only for the Poor?

Since the spread of liberation theology in the Third World countries (from Latin America, to Asia and
Africa), the notion of Gods preferential option for the poor has become an important slogan in
theological circles. It has also become the catchword of the campaign for churches to be in solidarity
with the poor, depressed, and oppressed peoples. But does this mean that Gods reign is only for the
poor? Is there no good news for the rich?
In the Bible are two categories of poor that Jesus blessed. From Lukes version we see
the poor described as poor. These must have included the crowds of economically
struggling people. They are those who have been dispossessed or forced to be poor
under mammons rule of terror. Conscious of their utter dependence on God, they
hunger for righteousness and peace. Jesus had compassion for them as they were like
sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). In a way, therefore, the reign of God belongs to
the dispossessed poor because it is Gods reign that seeks them. And when Gods reign
seeks them, they are empowered to denounce their enforced and enslaving poverty.
From Matthews version, the poor are the poor in spirit. They may not have been
materially poor, but they were conscious of their spiritual poverty, which could only be
satisfied with Gods help. Thus, dependent on God and hungry for righteousness and
peace, they are those who are voluntarily detached from their riches. Jesus seemed to
have taught that the renunciation of mammon is a basic qualification to enter and serve
in Gods reign (Matthew 19, also Luke 19). Even the cleansing of the temple was a clear
renunciation of mammons rule for the sake of Gods reign (Luke 19:46). Therefore, for
the rich who are poor in spirit, finding Gods reign involves renouncing their riches and
loyalty to mammon.
So there is no discrimination against the rich with Gods preferential option for the poor.
It is just that the poor have greater need than the rich. The reign of God is open to both
the rich and the poor but it comes to them differently (i.e. with different demands)
because of their different social locations. The church today faces the challenge to
struggle to be poor, i.e. detached from the control of mammon; and to be poor in spirit,
i.e. acknowledging its sinfulness and asking pardon from its victims. It also faces the
challenge to struggle for the poor, by voluntarily being in solidarity with the poor and
4. Is Gods Reign (Kindom) Only for Christians?
Another question before us is whether the reign of God is an exclusive possession for
Christians or an inclusive possibility for all people. Let us look closely at what our
statement of faith as UCCP affirms:
We believe that God is at work
to make each person a new being in Christ,
and the whole world Gods Kingdom
in which love, justice and peace prevail.
This affirms that Gods reign has both personal and social dimensions. Entry into Gods
reign involves transformation of oneself and ones relationships with all others around.
This holistic view is rooted in the biblical vision of Shalom, the total wellbeing of people
and the world.
What do we mean by God is at work to make each person a new being in Christ?
Making each person a new being implies a transformation being made new or being

made whole again. We Christians believe that this is something we cannot do on our
own we need a savior to help it happen. And we believe that Christ Jesus is the Savior
who can help us and lead the way. He is also the standard or model of what we can
become. Being in Christ means being in the likeness of Christ, i.e. having the spirit and
mindset of Christ. So it is more than the Christian or denominational label that we often
attach to being a follower of Christ. If we only remember, Christ himself was not a
Christian. He was a Jew who tried to transform his religion (i.e., to fulfill the law, as he
used to say it).
There is an interesting story in the Bible about being made new or being made whole
that goes deeper than simply taking on a religious label or a denominational badge.
While the stronger voices in the Bible seem to portray that the native Canaanite people,
and their religion and culture were being subsumed by the Jews and the Jewish religion
and culture, Jesus is depicted affirming the faith of a Syrophoenician or Canaanite
woman (Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28). Being made into a new being in Christ goes
far deeper than having the Christian or denominational label that many of us like to wear
as a badge or wave around as a flag. Even Jesus was changed, also transformed, by the
encounter with the woman.
That this is all Gods work is also a humbling affirmation for us. We therefore can not
claim credit for any transformed life, not even for our own life. This transformed life has
implications for our understanding of conversion, which unfortunately has come to mean
simply the changing of religious labels or moving from one church membership to
another. Real transformation is the work of God and if Christ is to be the measure, and
gleaning from his teachings, it means becoming God-centered by being people-centered
rather than remaining self-centered. So the process of becoming a new person in Christ
is Gods work. It is therefore not clearly or readily visible. It cannot be captured by our
Christian or denominational label. Above all, it remains to be seen through the fruits of
ones life.
What do we mean by God is at work to make the whole world Gods Kingdom in which
love, justice and peace prevail? We Christians affirm that because God created the
world and everything that is in it, then nothing is outside of Gods love and care
whether humankind, animals, plants, organisms, all matter, etc. But God entrusted the
world to humankind. People are therefore stewards, or trustees, of everything in
creation. Yet, we also know that the whole creation is groaning in pain (Romans 8:22),
mostly due to human neglect, abuse or exploitation. As Christians, we affirm that God is
working to make the world come under Gods reign i.e. the rule of love, justice and
peace. This is a big task because today, the whole world has been put under the control
of a profit-oriented ideology (globalization), which is highly supported by a war-oriented
ideology (war on terror). If these two go unchallenged and unchecked, Gods world will
continue to suffer with gravely detrimental effects.
Implicit in our affirmation however is the belief that just as God has made human beings
stewards of Gods creation, God has also called them to be co-actors in the process of
justice and peace building. Turning the whole world into Gods reign of love, justice, and
peace means confronting the powers and principalities that are hurting and distorting
Gods world. This is indeed a big task especially if we think that only Christians are
called upon to participate in this work with God. But affirming that God is the God of the
whole world and that the world is Gods household, we can say with confidence that in
fact God is calling on all peoples, Gods children, to this task.

There is a beautiful story in the gospel according to Mark (9:38-40) about a man who was
driving out demons in Christs name. John informed Jesus that the disciples had told the
man to stop because he was not one of us. But Jesus said, Do not stop him. No one
who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for
whoever is not against us is for us. The reign of God is for the whole world.
Participating in its in-breaking is therefore for all Gods children, regardless of their
religion, ideology, race, gender, etc.
We may differ in our practices of faith as Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. We
may differ in our theologies as Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Pentecostals,
Evangelicals, etc. We may differ in our political leanings, e.g. as pro-people activists or
government-abiding citizens, etc. We may differ in our social locations due to ethnicity,
class, education, profession, etc. But we cannot let our differences divide us and destroy
us. When we allow this to happen, the principalities and powers of this world will be
more victorious in keeping us under their control. We therefore need to overcome our
differences by remembering that God has entrusted Gods world to all of us for our
sake and the sake of the generations to come. We need to overcome our differences by
coming to terms with our prejudices about each other. Above all, we need to transcend
our differences by working together for the sake of Gods world that we share together.