Imagine that someone came up to you and gave you a kingdom, just a big ol’ bit of land, for you to rule as you wish. It’s completely empty, so your first job is to choose who to stick in it. You can invite anybody you like.
Who would you pick?
Without a shadow of a doubt, my first choice would be Roger Federer. That man is a dreamboat. Sure, being the boring person that I am, I would probably try to find a whole bunch of economists, sociologists, public health professionals, and a few civil servants. Maybe chuck in a few lawyers too, because we are going to need a good judicial system. But first of all, I would pick Roger. He’s wealthy, he’s healthy, he’s handsome, he has one of the world’s finest forehands, and he is the man that every man surely wishes they could be. I’d give anything for hair like that.
Personally, if I was Jesus, the choice would be a no brainer. Jesus might disagree.
In the gospel of Matthew, we read about something called the Kingdom of Heaven. This means a lot of things, but it is basically that which Jesus is King over. It’s actually more complicated than that, but, after spending three hours reading about it, I’ve realised that it’s probably better if we just leave it there.
In the first four chapters of Matthew, we are gradually introduced to who Jesus is. This remarkable baby, whose very existence was viewed as threatening to the rulers of his day, has grown up into a man able to resist the temptations of the devil. He is poised to change the world.
In chapter 5, he begins to set out his universe altering agenda. In 5:3, he says:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
He seems to be talking about the people who make up the Kingdom of Heaven. Like my hypothetical kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven needs itself a population. Fair enough, he is allowed to do that, but he hasn’t exactly started out by listing the best of the bunch. In the Bible, those who are ‘poor in spirit,’ are generally those who are loyal to God, but have been pushed down and oppressed because of it.
He is giving them some sort of honourable mention in the team listings. That’s very kind. Surely, though, you’re going to need some other people in the kingdom. Let’s see who he lists next:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Strangely, there is still no mention of the greatest tennis player of all time. Instead the Kingdom of Heaven is gunna be filled with those who mourn. What use will they be? They are not exactly the liveliest group.
In Matthew 5, Jesus lists a bunch of people who will be part of his kingdom, and who will benefit because of it. You have the poor in spirit, those who are mourning, the meek, those hungry for personal righteousness, those who show mercy to others, those who strive for purity in their heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. This isn’t the A-Team of movers and shakers. It is a list of the broken, the weary, the hurt, the kind, and the persecuted. He doesn’t mention recruiting soldiers, politicians, or athletes. Motivational speakers, actors, and prominent scientists are nowhere to be seen.
Matthew doesn’t say for certain, but I think the rest of the Bible is pretty clear. Check out these verses from Psalm 147:
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.
. . .
6 The Lord supports the humble,
but he brings the wicked down into the dust
. . .
10 He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
or in human might.
11 No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love. (NLT)
Jesus is God, and God really cares about people who are downtrodden and brokenhearted. He really cares for those who live in humility. He doesn’t particularly care for ‘human might,’ and all the stuff that we value. Instead, he looks for those who hope in him. It kinda makes sense that he would fill his kingdom with that sort of people. Forget the celebrities, the politicians, and all the rest that this world thinks are the bees knees, Jesus has come to fill his kingdom with people like you and me.
That doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t value tennis players highly. After all, Roger Federer is surely one of the greatest proofs that God is good. It does mean that Jesus’ priorities are very different. He did not come to recruit the best and the brightest that humanity came to offer, but to save those that humanity overlooks.
For an informal bibliography, see page 2.