Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Kingdoms of this World

Watching a docu about the history of Shanghai on Nat Geo had me transfixed for an hour. Unlike reading a book that may take days or weeks, viewing the growth, decay and resurgence of “Asia’s New York City” in a rush of images can bring not just instant valuable lessons but also deep insight into the thoughts and character of the people who inhabited and built one of the fastest growing cities in the world today.

Talk about a marvelogue, not a travelogue!

One imagines visiting the city to see its history and the progress it has achieved. And yet, scanning an aerial perspective of the city, I stop and think: Hey, this is one of the kingdoms of this world! Yes, it used to be a kingdom – literally, at that, under the Qing dynasty – before it became a central commercial metropolis.

China may not be a literal kingdom today; but it is essentially a political, military and economic force to be reckoned with. One that has a huge influence on the stability of the entire world.

Then there is Macau, Singapore, Hongkong, Tokyo, New York, London, LA, Dubai, Sydney and so many others. All of these are run by the great economic energy that moves the entire globe and touches the lives of billions of people. Even the irresistible allures of culture play second fiddle to the mesmerizing tunes of economics. Whoever has a finger dipped into its life-sustaining wealth also has the power to make or unmake the future of nations, peoples and families.

Imagine climbing Mt. Everest today with a special telescope that can view those cities (well, the Internet will do that, easily) and put yourself in the sandals of Jesus Christ before His arch-enemy, Satan, offering all those “kingdoms” – their power, wealth and influence – to you. Would you accept them? Would you gain the whole world in exchange for your soul?

The answer may be easy for some. But let us make the situation a bit tougher and within reality bounds: You are poor, starving and thirsty – just as Jesus was. In that situation, you are given to choose just one city to go to as a foreign worker. As an engineer, perhaps, or a truck-driver, a singer or a sales manager. You are given a chance to improve your dire financial status back home. Which means getting a salary thrice or more than what you would normally get.

Out of desperation or practical choice, many have done it. I have not; but have thought about it more in recent months. Until I saw that Nat Geo docu. Let me explain.

I am poor, often hungry and thirsty and in desperate financial and emotional condition as a result of some choices I have made in my life. There is no one to blame. No particular reason to point to for what I have failed to achieve so far in my life. Only God to thank for for the blessings and the wisdom that He gives from day to day.

I am not saying working as an OFW is giving in to Satan. Indeed, Satan claimed he had a kingdom. But he was lying. Christ, after His resurrection, would claim “all power and authority” as having been given to Him by the Father in Heaven. What Satan was offering was the easy way out of our physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs. “Kneel down to this world’s allure” vs. “Kneel down to the mighty God”. Remove your suffering by choosing the devil’s means or suffer need and await God’s powerful salvation. Cut short your mission in your own time or finish it in God’s time. Choose temporary material wealth or eternal spiritual riches.

The false kingdoms of Satan continue to prosper, of course, on borrowed time. The deception remains at work. As long as people hunger and thirst, it will. That is why Christ taught us to “hunger or thirst for righteousness”. That is the only we can receive God’s bountiful blessings.

Yet, as before, today, within those earthly kingdoms are people who devote their time and lives to serve God. They have been planted there for a purpose. Believers, like the Hebrew slaves, may serve foreign masters while they remain God’s servants. Ultimately, God wants us to be freed of the bondage. Not the virtual bondage of working in a foreign land but the vicious bondage of subservience to the ways of the world.

Materialism is a big trap that can accommodate millions or billions of people. The western world – from Rome or Amsterdam to Toronto or Las Vegas -- perfected the system that feeds the whole world’s desire for more and more of it. Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea and others have put their stake upon this world economy and all others, without exception, would want to be counted in. Governments feel the burden to make their money-making engines run efficiently for their people.

All the benefits, comforts and conveniences we have today we owe to the economic and political progress we have achieved globally. Yet, the spiritual progress that Jesus Christ lived and worked for remains unfulfilled – no, hidden! -- within the shadows of the global economic and political kingdoms of this world.

Defining what real personal and national progress is is essential to defining what true life and genuine wealth are. The King of Kings awaits our undivided allegiance.

(Painting above: "The Temptation of Jesus" by Gustave Dore.)