A Kingdom Parable for Our Time (Sep-Dec 2007)

By Matt Dabbs

by David May
September – December, 2007

Once there was a good king who was going on a journey to find a better land for his subjects. Before he left, he commissioned an army to fight against his one very powerful enemy. The king knew that, if left alone, the enemy would build his own kingdom and even his own army by stealing the hearts of the good king’s subjects. The king declared that every subject of the kingdom was to serve in the army, and he gave instructions for how they should fight. The instructions were for an army on the offense, always moving aggressively against the enemy.

At first the king’s people were loyal, and they made great progress opposing the enemy of the king. The enemy was in hiding. But after awhile the king’s subjects grew weary of always fighting, so they began to build forts. Every village had a fort. Some villages even had several forts, because some of the subjects did not want to share what they had built.

Gradually, in first one village, then another, and another, the king’s army moved into the forts and waited for the enemy to attack them there. They continued to train each other in case the enemy tried to enter the fort, but they mostly quit the attacks and the rescues they had been conducting in the streets of their villages and the countryside beyond. They were too busy inside the forts. They were no longer much of a force at all in the kingdom.

Outside the forts, the enemy gained more and more power. With the king’s army hiding out, the enemy found very little opposition in the city. His forces grew stronger and stronger: in the government, in the marketplace, and among the townspeople. Soon, the king’s army became fearful that the enemy was winning the war. And he was. The king’s army began to wish that the king would come back and tell them what to do. But he had already told them. Long ago. Before he left.

The Nature of the Kingdom

Satan has the church in America exactly where he wants it – hiding in the pews.

Jesus told Peter and the other Apostles, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, KJV). The image Jesus used is of an Army on the attack. His church is the aggressor; it has the offense. Not only is Satan the one who is hiding, but the church is breaking down the gates of his hiding place.

Who is Winning?

The church is hiding today, and Satan is the one attacking our gates. While the world is going to Hell all around us, we are hiding in the pews. Aggregately, we are spending unbelievable fortunes on property, building, and staff, mostly to serve us. In church after church the largest single portion of the weekly contribution of the saints goes to the mortgage company. After the building, our money goes to staff who are paid to lead us, counsel us, console us, teach us, entertain us, keep our kids, make our decisions, and hold our hands.

I look at the parable of the servants in Matthew 25 where the proprietor goes away, leaving each servant with a sum of money; and I wonder how He would feel about us spending all the money on ourselves. If there is any left over, it may go to spreading the good news or helping the poor. That is, if we are not expanding the building. If you will go back and check the design, this is not how it was intended to work.

Meanwhile, outside our gates, the pursuit of power, money, and pleasure is gaining worshippers by the hour. The TV, billboards and other media blast away 24/7 – “buy more, get more, experience more.” The goal of the education system we have built for our kids is to prepare them for success in this world. Success is defined as more, more, more. Where is the church? Hiding in the pews. Maybe sending out a reconnaissance team a few times a year.

Jesus’ intent for his “army”—the body of Christ

When Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry He did it by reading aloud in his home synagogue what Isaiah had said about the coming Savior, “He was anointed to preach the good news to the poor, to release the captives, to bring sight to the blind, to set free the downtrodden, and to proclaim the favorable year of The Lord (Luke 4:18-19). Then Jesus sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus opened His ministry describing two things: helping people in need, and proclaiming good news.

If we are the body of Christ as Paul indicated to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:27), doesn’t it follow that our role in this world is to do what Jesus would be doing? WWJD? The kids had it right all along. What would Jesus do? Indeed, what did Jesus do? How can we know what he would do other than by going back to the Book to see what He did?

So I encourage you to do the following. Put aside all you know, all you have been taught about religion, all the theology, and just read the stories of Jesus’ life from the Bible. Read them all four and try to get a picture of how our Lord lived his life while He was here in the form of one of us. I believe you will see someone who worked long hard hours, moving about doing two things – helping those in need and spreading good news. “Don’t worry about whether other people are impressed,” He said. “Don’t worry about tomorrow’s groceries.” “Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.” “Don’t be afraid, not even of death.” “I have overcome.” “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

Jesus also told a story about what happens after we die (Matthew 25:31-46). There will be a judgment time where the good guys are separated from the bad guys. And the good guys are invited into the special place He has prepared for them. And the great thing about this story is that He tells us the standard He will use to separate us. He gave us the answer sheet for the final exam. No surprises. Other than a few verses scattered here and there that simply say we will be judged by our deeds, this picture Jesus paints is the only detailed description of the final judgment given in the entire Bible. And the standard has a familiar ring: feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, provide clothing for those who are in need, visit the sick and those who are in prison. Couple that with the last instruction He gave on this earth, “tell the good news,” and you are back to the picture He painted with His own life as He lived it here on this earth. That is what the church is supposed to be about – plain and simple.

This is an active life. It is going, telling, visiting, helping, and healing. There are no points for showing up, and no points for watching. There is no credit for committee meetings, no credit for business plans or bureaucracy. Whether we are part of the group with the largest building, the most eloquent speakers, the best music, or the largest youth groups is not taken into consideration. This is about each of us individually, and it takes us outside the gates.New Wineskins

David MayDavid May recently retired from a career in Public Administration, specializing in programs for abused and neglected children. He has a Master’s in Social Welfare and a Bachelor’s in Education. David lectures regularly to church leaders in Haiti and to Christians in the United States. He was a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a Platoon Commander in Viet Nam. He grieves over the current state of the church in America. He is author of Out of the Pews and Into the Streets [www.outskirtspress.com/DavidMay].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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