Economics in Jesus’ Kingdom

Adapted from Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How we Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt with Brian Fikkert.

A version of this post originally appeared on our blog in 2019.

Every kingdom or culture has its own way of doing things—its own customs and policies regarding food, marriage, family, religion, and money. 

When Jesus welcomes us into His kingdom, we discover a whole new world. We soon realize that Jesus’s kingdom looks different from the kingdoms to which we’ve grown accustomed, and when our culture’s approach to anything conflicts with God’s approach, we must choose to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Within this, we see that King Jesus has unique economic policies, his own economic program, if you will. In the West, our prevailing economic worldview sees people as self-interested individuals with limitless desires in a limited world, who seek to increase consumption and leisure by earning as much money as possible.

But then we meet Jesus, with His:

  • parables of well-dressed lilies that neither labor nor spin, and wealthy farmers punished for saving too much.
  • commands to lend without expecting return and to invest in heavenly dwellings.
  • establishment of communities in which “no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own” (Acts 4:32).

Different Economic Programs

As we read Scripture, we might notice that Jesus has a different approach to economics than we learned at school. For example, we might recognize that Jesus, rather than calling us to focus on how to efficiently manage limited resources to achieve the greatest amount of satisfaction, instead calls us to very different patterns of consumption, production, and exchange than those of our Western world.

We might realize that Jesus, who said “seek first the kingdom of God,” is less concerned with teaching us to maximize our consumption than teaching people to steward the gifts He has given them for the sake of His kingdom

When faced with such discrepancies between Jesus’s approach to our economic life and our culture’s approach, many of us sense we’re falling short of the life God intends for us.

The problem is that the kingdoms we live in seem more real than the one we encounter in the Bible. If we’re honest, Scripture’s approach to our economic lives doesn’t just look foolish; it looks entirely implausible.

But God is bringing a kingdom far more real than any earthly power or authority we experience today. That kingdom calls Christians to embrace a whole life of economic discipleship by which we learn to live as economic citizens of God’s kingdom. What might such discipleship look like today?

Gleaning and Good News

Let’s take just one example from our book, Practicing the King’s Economy. When we investigate the Bible’s “strange new world,” we find an approach to work that’s radically countercultural to our own. Back in the Old Testament, when Yahweh wrote the HR manual for every Israelite firm, he gave his people one of the world’s strangest employee policies: the gleaning laws. In these laws, God called his people to leave some of their own profits in the fields to create opportunities for work for the orphan, the immigrant, the widow, and the poor (cf. Deut. 24:19).

These laws didn’t just provide the poor with a meal; they also empowered them to contribute to their families and communities through work. The gleaning laws accomplished this empowerment by requiring business owners to bend the way they managed their businesses toward inclusion for marginalized workers.

This seemingly obscure law allowed Ruth to go from being a complete outsider to a heroine in the family tree of Jesus. Because Boaz obeyed the gleaning laws, Ruth was able to provide for herself and Naomi and to inspire her community. That’s why Boaz tells her the whole village is talking about her contribution to the community (2:11), and the women at the end of the book say Ruth is worth more to Naomi than seven Israelite sons (4:15).

We in the West often embrace an economic discipleship that says “make all you can and then give some away.” We typically use our leftovers to fund soup kitchen-style strategies that meet peoples’ immediate needs, while simultaneously creating communities of “haves” and “have-nots.”  While soup kitchens might be necessary, the Bible’s economic vision is not a vastly more equitable soup kitchen where everyone gets fed; it’s a potluck feast where everyone brings something to share.

The gleaning laws and the story of Ruth remind us that work is one of the primary ways people bring their best plate to the party. Even more importantly, these laws call God’s people to welcome marginalized workers into the workplace in the way we manage our economic lives.

Whole Life Economic Discipleship

Whole-life kingdom economic discipleship calls us to respond to the realities of who gets left out of our systems by bending our economic lives toward the marginalized—creating work opportunities, helping people in material poverty navigate financial mazes, and collaborating with whole communities to find new solutions to persistent problems.

When we allow Scripture to shape us as citizens for life in the King Jesus Economy, we begin to imagine ways to bend our economic lives toward the potluck. But such whole-life economic discipleship requires far more than our leftovers. Instead, such discipleship challenges us to dream about what it would look like to work, earn, spend, save, invest, share, compensate, and give like Jesus is the King of the whole world–because He is.

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.


  1. David E. Kresta on September 7, 2022 at 11:12 am

    Such good news! I love especially the explanation of the gleaning laws as “leaving profits in the field” — not so that the less fortunate can benefit from the few scraps we leave, but so that they can work and provide for themselves. The applications today are plenty, such as helping somebody start a business, choosing to buy local rather than from a (cheaper) global source, etc. Thank you!

  2. Rebeca Martínez Gómez on September 7, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    Based on my experience, I think God’s main objective is to fully trust him. Not money, not your job, not Wall Street, not your own effort and/or degrees. My husband and I left our careers after finishing our PhDs to pursue the calling from Jesus. It’s been the hardest years of our lives but like the hymn says “I’m so glad I learnt to trust him”. We haven’t had a formal job for three years now, no secure income at all. We lost all we had but we’ve found Jesus and his kingdom. May his kingdom come to us all!

  3. Andrew (Drew) Smith on September 7, 2022 at 9:21 pm

    Every human encounter is ALWAYS a two way exchange. We exchange our value (money) for the shopkeepers value (goods or services). When we give away to the poor without expecting something in return we often don’t realize we force an exchange from them – their dignity. In my experience when ministries I worked along side or founded focused on helping build character and see work not as the solution but rather a tool to empower a person to do the right thing for themselves, their family, church and community. Then they experience their self worth explode. Brian Fikkert’s book “When Helping Hurts” is a must read for anyone or any organization I engage with

  4. Phil Smith on September 11, 2022 at 7:15 am

    As is the case with each of your posts (Chalmers team), such incredibly compelling truths here, yet so very difficult to put in practice given our (church included) immersion in a culture that, at best, encourages us to leave the scraps and somehow feel we’ve done our part. My own experience, thanks in no small part to the work of Chalmers, is the overwhelming testimony of those in the majority world who are marginalized when, as you said in the post, “empowered to contribute to their families and communities through work. ” The God-birthed creativity and resolve is ignited. Perhaps more importantly, they are a testimony to those of us in the West of what it means to experience the “community” that God intended. There is a deep love and care for each other (think Acts 2) that far surpasses our culture, and an active engagement in serving the needs of their communities – with the profits, not the scraps. They are attractive within their communities – see how they love each other – to the point that others want to be part of it all.
    Thank you Chalmers sisters and brothers!!

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