When I was in Kindergarten, I dreamt up an out-of-this-world kingdom. It was a fort in the woods with trap doors, crossbows, and a drawbridge. All day long I told my friend about it. Of course, I left out the part about it being imaginary.
“Yeah, it’s just behind school, out in the woods. I built it with my dad.”
After school we slipped out of the carpool line and headed for the woods. For two hours we searched for a fort that didn’t exist. My friend didn’t catch on, even when I told him about the full-size kitchen and elevator. “It’s just around the corner!” I kept promising.
By the time we wandered back to school, the place was swarming with cops. The next morning the principal was waiting for me with a paddle.
“Touch your toes, son,” he said.
The Kingdoms We Build
I’ve built a lot of kingdoms in my life, and like my imaginary fort, they’ve all disappointed. When I was a teenager, I lived for the Kingdom of Ego – anything to make myself look good. When I got married, I tried to build a more traditional kingdom – the Kingdom of the American Dream. One of the most damaging kingdoms I’ve built is the Kingdom of Performance – the one where I try to please God by working hard to make up for all my past failures.
We build kingdoms because we crave refuge. We need somewhere to hang our hope. How do you identify a kingdom? Follow the “if onlys.”
“If only I can make it to the top of my company.”
“If only I can insulate my family from suffering.”
“If only I can gain so-and-sos approval … or win the political battle … or make a name for myself …”
Kingdoms are built on hope and “if onlys,” and they come at a steep price.
The Cost of a Kingdom
I read an article recently about people who took radical measures to invest in Bitcoin when it first came out. Some of them sold their homes, moved into trailers, and poured every penny into Bitcoin stock. They did it because they saw the potential for life-changing wealth, and to them, the risk was worth the reward.
It reminds me of a parable Jesus told in Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
The truth is, we always sell “all we have” for a kingdom. I don’t necessarily mean financially. I mean we sell ourselves. We become sold-out, stake-my-life-on-this, ALL IN. Why? Because our hope rides on our kingdoms.
The Test of a Worthy Kingdom
How do you know if you’ve put your hope in the right kingdom? It’s actually very simple.
You look at the King.
By definition, every kingdom has a king. And I can almost guarantee that if the king of your kingdom isn’t Jesus, it’s you. Below the infinite number of kingdoms we construct, there are really only two: The Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Self.
“Self” always disappoints. It looks promising at first. It’s like a race through the woods – heady and exciting – a chase after something as amazing as a fort with a hot air balloon landing pad. But two hours, or two years, or a lifetime later, it’s all foolishness and deception.
The first step to Jesus is the death of the king inside of you. It’s a death that actually leads to life, for as Jesus once said, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Don’t be deceived. Be like the man who knows how to spot true treasure. And in your joy, let go of everything else, and go buy that field.
Want to learn more about the Kingdom of God? Join us for an 8-week series on The Kingdom: Becoming a Citizen of Heaven on Earth.