3:18 AM

The Call to the New Kingdom (Robert Fischer)

The commissioning of the disciples in Mt 10 reveals the text's conception of the Kingdom of God and how people are to behave within it. This revelation is often stated in the negative, defining the Kingdom of God in contrast to the world's kingdoms and cultures. The radically different nature of the Kingdom of God is suggested before Mt 10, because the devil is in possession of all the kingdoms of the world in some sense (Mt 4:8f).

There are a number of other contrasts within the Kingdom of God. The text reveals these in negative statements. Presuming that Jesus is instructing his disciples not to do things on the basis that they would be inclined to do them due to the dominant paradigm, these negative statements reveal the way that the kingdoms of the world work differently from the Kingdom of God.
  • First, the apostles are to give and receive without payment (v.8). Ministering within the context of the Kingdom of God is not a profession. Unlike the professional ministers and miracle workers we saw throughout Acts, those serving the Kingdom of God should not expect monetary reward for their service.
  • As a corollary to this, these ministers are not to carry around money or extra clothing or even sandals or a staff (v.9f). (The household of God is apparently a friary.) This puts ministers of the Kingdom of God at opposition with any kind of luxury, and in opposition to commercial systems. Instead, the ministers are to earn their keep day-to-day through work ("for the worker is worth his keep", v.10 NIV). This reminds me of the manna in Exodus 16:16-21(-ish): God provided just enough for the day, but if you kept any extra over it grew worms and rotted (except on the Sabbath).
  • The apostles are also to only go among their own nation (v. 5f), and not to go among the nations beyond. This is because the harvest is plentiful (9:37f) thanks to the work Jesus has already done in the synagogues (9:35).
  • The Kingdom of God is not a mystery religion: it is not a secret set of initiations, but rather a kingdom that is publicly proclaimed (v.26f). This is particularly notable as an antidote to the conspiracy theories (*coughHolyBloodHolyGrailcoughDaVinciCodecough*) that portray early Christianity as simply reworked Mithrasism or otherwise containing secret, hidden knowledge.
  • The ministers of the Kingdom of God are not to worry about how they speak (vv. 19-20), "for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you". Despite such uneducated and unconcerned speech, the apostles will be "a testimony to them and the Gentiles" (v. 18). So the Kingdom of God does not have time of day for sophists.

Comments (4)

I wonder a bit about your first bullet point ("Ministering within the context of the kingdom of God is not a profession"). What are the implications you are meaning to draw for ministry today? Do you mean to say that pastors should not expect to be supported by their congregation, or do you have more of the Benny Hinns of the world in mind, who profit outright from their "ministry"? Bearing in mind the very different socioeconomic configuration in which we minister today (e.g., with no widely established convention of hospitality that would support such itinerant preachers as these), can you think of an alternative approach to ministry and money that would respect also, in our day, the other half of Jesus' point, that "laborers deserve their food"?

Also, what exactly do you mean by "commercial systems" (second bullet point), particularly if you want to say that earning one's keep from daily work is not part of such a system?

As a Conservative Quaker, I come from a faith tradition that does not have a pastorate, so it's relatively easy for me to make the claim that working for God should not earn you a wage, since it doesn't within my faith tradition.

By "commercial systems", I was thinking more along the lines of investing, banking, ownership, etc. The sense I get from the passage is that the people called here are told to only labor at a subsistence level, and anything beyond that is off-bounds.

Can you imagine what would happen if Christians decided that one day a week, we wouldn't buy anything at all? It would probably start a war (though probably not here).

I read the end of v. 10 to say that the apostles should expect to be provided for by the hospitality of the towns they will visit. As workers, they are worthy of their food. This isn't payment/compensation, however. They're not supposed to get any of that, as you say. Food is simply a condition of the apostles' presence and they are not to secure it for themselves but rely upon their hosts for it.

I still think the best historical foil to the presence of the Kingdom of God in the apostles is the presence of the kingdom of Herod or the rule of Rome in the corresponding ambassadors. It might also be Jewish freedom fighters who organize armed resistance to Roman/Herodian rule (Josephus tells us about these types and how they gained their power from Jewish towns). In such powers we find the appearance of sovereignty/control/self-sufficiency, speech calculated to persuade, etc.

I think Robert is right to emphasize the radical nature of giving freely. What sort of relationships do buying and selling seem to commit us to?

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