Will Heaven Be Communist?

DollarWhen I say communist, I don’t mean the totalitarian nightmare of the 20th century. I mean the seemingly naive, idealistic 19th century philosophy of communal society that said “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Before you jump to any conclusions consider the following questions:

  • Do you think we will have money in heaven?
  • Will good money managers live in a nicer part of heaven than bad money managers?
  • Will the life of the world to come be a life of “haves” and “have nots”?

It seems to me that the answer to these questions is “no”. It’s no wonder that Jesus was so ambivalent about money and at times was quite negative about the accumulation of wealth. His vision was focused on what is to come – on what is eternal – and the accumulation of wealth just isn’t something that has much of a future. Jesus gives us a vision of the kingdom of heaven in which human society is beyond money, beyond wealth accumulation, and beyond a brokenness in which a few have too much and many do not have enough (consider, for example, the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.)

Now here’s the really weird part: Jesus said that, in him, this Kingdom of God has come near to us. In some sense we are already living this life and called to change our minds (repent) and begin living in anticipation of the fullness of the coming of this new world. And that raises a final question:

If we believe all this then how should we be living now?

~ Jonathan Stepp

8 comments so far

  1. Boyd Merriman on

    On the one hand, I need more money, but on the other hand, I need to live the reality of Christ and the Kingdom of God right now in this life. Can we have both? đŸ™‚

    • Jonathan Stepp on

      That is the question, isn’t it! Perhaps it’s not more money we need but rather the sense of security and the ability to influence the direction of our lives that money seems to provide. And if that is so, then perhaps there are other ways to find a sense of security in this life than just money, or perhaps there are ways to use money that are less damaging to the lives’ of others.

    • This brings to mind how often Jesus brings up how problematic wealth is in relation to the kingdom. Camel and the eye of the needle, serving two masters, etc.

  2. In the early church and various monastic communities, they have incarnated this by everybody giving 100% of their money to the church leaders, who would then spend it on behalf of all. Two observations: 1). It seems this worked more-or-less okay, albeit on what was probably a pretty small scale. 2). The giving-of-all-their-money never seems to have been coerced, though in monastic orders it was often a requirement for entry into the order.

    This is one way to embody Jesus’ ambivalence toward money. I’m sure there are dozens of other ways, many of them just as radical and weird as this one.

    Question: To what degree might it be appropriate for a “kingdom-economy” work outside the walls of the church?

    • Jonathan Stepp on

      Thanks for bringing up monasticism – I think such communities have had a powerful witness over the centuries and could provide models for new ways of living in the future (such as the so-called “new monasticism” movement.)

      It’s also interesting to me that monastic communities over the centuries, while being communal, have made entrepreneurial contributions to the larger society – such as the invention of sparkling wines.

      For me, personally, the question of what a “kingdom-economy” looks like in this world and how we might live that out in anticipation of the life of the world to come is still very open. I don’t have many answers, but I am convinced that at the very least the Kingdom-life calls us to radical generosity and radical concern for the economic (and therefore physical, spiritual, and psychological) well-being of others.

  3. I have enjoyed studying “gift economies” and their place in cultures past and present, and I am struck by the trinitarian feelings they evoke in me. I betcha didn’t know “trinitarian” was an emotion, didja? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy

    • Jonathan Stepp on

      Interesting, I’m not familiar with this idea but I am definitely interested in learning more. Thanks for drawing my attention to it. (Also, did not know that trinitarianism is an emotion, I’ll need to get in touch with those feelings đŸ™‚

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