The entirety of history is one of people obtaining and retaining power and wealth at all cost. From kings to barons, from politicians to corporations. There is absolute truth to the adage that history is written by the victors. And not all of that history is good.
I encourage everyone of any race, creed, religion, or nationality to take critical looks at what is happening in the present day, who is benefiting most from status quo, and how we got where we are.
This would then also require a hard look at our past, including some of our great heroes we grew up admiring. The “perfect” qualities offered in incomplete history textbooks or children’s stories do little to remind us that these men and women had major moral failures as well. It encourages us to dehumanize them and instead deify our ancestors as “the best there ever was”.
It’s no wonder so many always wants to go back to “the good ol’ days”, because when we have it great, and we’re the ones riding high on power and wealth, the only things we see through our rose-tinted-backward-facing lenses are the high points. Not the individuals or people groups whose lives were destroyed to get there.
Power. Influence. Wealth. It’s obtained through inheritance, treachery, rebellion, luck, and always key decisions to look the other way. There will _always_ be ample opportunity for those in power and those with money to do the right thing because it’s the right thing. But watch carefully and you will always see that those with means and the capability to enact real change will only do so when it’s politically, economically, and socially beneficial for them. This is not doing right because it’s right. It’s doing right because it gets them what they want. More power. More influence. More wealth.
And we can ache and moan about needing new people in power. About toppling big business or big pharma and putting new people in place. But here’s the thing. The new people will not end up being any better than the old ones. Oh, it may help for a time, as they consolidate votes and as they ensure they have loyal followers, but it never lasts. Ask yourself the last time any candidate you saw elected even attempted to follow through on half of their promises during their campaigning.
Because power corrupts. We were told this as children. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The systems are broken because broken people put them into place and broken people enforce them. New broken people will only modify the broken systems so that it benefits them, as everyone in power has always done from the beginning of time.
But, if you’re actually still reading this diatribe, know that there’s hope. And though it’s not very popular or effective these days in the world of social media outrage, I’m going to remind people of a man named Jesus.
See, his story doesn’t follow the same trajectory of power and wealth accumulation. His story begins before time itself. It’s a story of a perfect Creation and perfect unity with everyone inside. Until mankind chose to try to seize power for himself in an attempt to be “like God”. Because for some reason walking hand in hand, side by side with the Creator of the Universe wasn’t satisfying enough. We had to ascend to more.
And in this attempt, man fell. The harmony and unity was shattered, and the whole of creation felt its weight. To this day, it cries out for the world to be restored to its previous perfection and unity. No more hate. No more war. No more powerful people taking advantage of those less fortunate.
But for millennia, we sat in that weight. Our own squalor and filth, with only a glimmer of hope that one day someone would come to repair all the damage that we had done. To restore things. Meanwhile, even the people who claimed to be chosen by God were corrupted by evil political and religious leaders. Who took advantage of the poor, the immigrant, the destitute. Who were more concerned with the attaining of wealth, property, and women than taking care of the people in their charge.
Enter a little baby. Proclaimed a king at his birth, but to lowly shepherds and found in a feeding trough. See the powerful and wealthy weren’t invited to this. And as this baby grew, the elite, the political, and the religious sought to destroy him. Physically, emotionally, and intellectually. But nothing would stick.
Meanwhile, the crowds followed this Jesus hoping he was the promised King who was to come and destroy their enemies, seize power, and send Rome running back where they came from. But this King was different. He spent his time with criminals. With prostitutes. With the dregs of society who were often persecuted and always avoided. This King honored not the one who takes power, but the ones who would dare to give it up for someone else.
And finally, one day, he rode into town and the crowds cheered and honored him for who he truly was. The king of kings. They awaited eagerly for him to ascend and take his throne. For the revolution to begin and the toppling of power structures to take place.
And they waited. And in the early morning hours after a dinner with friends in which the Master played the role of the Servant to all present, the religious elite arrested him. They placed him on trial but could find nothing to truly accuse him of. They then brought him to the political elite. But they, too, could find no fault with this man. Except the strange claim that he was, indeed, a King.
In the end, those with power got their way, as they always do, and Jesus was executed with the moniker above his head “King of the Jews”. A joke. Because those with power don’t speak another language other than power.
And that was the end of the movement. Followers sat lonely for a few days, a handful decided to head back to their homes, and a few women chose to travel to the grave to pay their final respects. Only to find, there was no body.
Fast forward a few days later, and this Jesus had revealed himself to dozens and then hundreds of witnesses. He told them the same message that he had been proclaiming the entire time. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. And it was only then that they started to realize what he had meant.This King needed to seize no power. He already had it. He wanted no wealth. It meant nothing to him. His arrival was always intended to do one thing. Restore his Creation to himself. By taking on the eternal death that was placed upon each person of humanity and defeating it, he offered a way back for each one of them (and us) into community with him.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not about power. It’s not about wealth. It’s not about influence. It is, and always has been, about unifying a Creation with its Creator and the infinite love, joy, and harmony that flows from such a relationship. It is not an esoteric thing that has to be waited for in some long promised future, but is a moment and expectation that can be experienced today.
There is hope. It’s in a King who’s not looking to seize power and wealth, but instead chose to give up power at every turn- from deity to humanity, from nobility to servanthood, from citizen to a criminal’s death- to show us the way that we should live. For others. Not ourselves.
Those of us who still look to the heroes in our history books, our monuments, and our television screens will be sorely disappointed. Those heroes will (figuratively and literally) be toppled. Because their ascension is built on climbing over everyone to reach the top and stay there.
Follow a King who instead, set the example of stepping down for the sake of pulling others up. Let go of everything and everyone else. They’re nothing but idols and they care nothing for you. They never have.