The believers who make the greatest impact for God’s kingdom are those who also have the greatest power on earth. Believers who are politicians, professionals, executives, famous actors and singers, and other movers and shakers have the greatest potential for making the biggest difference for Christ. Thus all Christians should strive to become members of the elite, of the upper class, of that group that determines the course of the world.
The best evidence of all this is when emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and the greatest empire known to human history became the Holy Roman Empire. The impact that Constantine made for God’s kingdom was incomparable to any other person in his lifetime.
Thus in heaven the ranks of saints will be proportionate to the degrees of power and influence that believers had on earth. So Constantine will be somewhere near the top of rewarded saints, followed by the likes of Charles V, Martin Luther, etc., and bottoming out with the poor and unknown believers in the world.
To state the above view, which is the common assumption if not outspoken opinion of many American Christians is to refute it by its absurd conclusions.
When Jesus established the kingdom of God with His incarnation, He did so not as an earthly king but as a carpenter from an unimportant city. When Christ died, rose, and ascended, He left the keys of the kingdom to a fisherman; not to Caesar Augustus, Pilate, or King Herod. The kingdom of God spread and was strengthened through a tentmaker; not through the politically powerful Pharisees.
But what about Constantine? Didn’t the converted emperor make a greater impact for God’s kingdom than Peter the fisherman and Paul the tentmaker? To state the question is to reveal the absurd assumption. But perhaps Dostoevsky can help clarify the matter more concretely. In Chapter 7 of Part 4 of The Idiot, Dostoevsky describes the reaction of the Christ-figure Prince Myshkin upon hearing news that a certain Pavlishchev had been converted to Roman Catholicism:
“Pavlishchev was a clear–headed man and a Christian, a true Christian,” the prince declared suddenly. “How could he submit to a faith—that is unchristian? Catholicism . . . is no more than an unchristian faith . . . even worse than atheism. . . . Atheism only preaches nullity, but Catholicism goes further; it preaches a distorted Christ, a Christ it has calumnied and defamed, the opposite of Christ! It preaches the Antichrist. . . . Roman Catholicism believes the Church cannot remain on earth without universal temporal power. . . . [It] is not even a religion but very definitely the continuation of the Holy Roman Empire, and everything in it is subservient to that idea, beginning with faith. The Pope usurped the earth, an earthly throne, and took up the sword, and since then everything has been going on that way, except that to the sword they have added craft, deceit, fanaticism, superstition, villainy. . . . They have bartered everything, everything for money, for base earthly power. And isn’t that the teaching of Antichrist? How could they fail to create atheism? Atheism has come from them, directly from Roman Catholicism! . . . Among us only exceptional classes of people don’t believe, those . . . who have lost their roots. But there, in Europe, awesome masses of the people themselves are beginning to lose their faith—first from darkness and lies, and now from fanaticism, from hatred of the Church and Christianity. . .”
The popular notion that believers ought to strive to become powerful and prestigious in order to make a greater difference for Christ is usually rooted in false assumptions. Being “good stewards” masks false ambitions, false motivations, and false pretenses. If making a great impact for Christ were the true motivation of a professional, then does he or she have to expand God’s kingdom with a BMW? If it were a true ambition of an actor, then does he or she have to make a greater impact on God’s kingdom while living in a $1 million home in Beverly Hills?
Blessed are the poor (Luke 6:20; James 2:5). The least will be the greatest (Luke 9:48). The last will be first (Mark 10:31). These are the principles of Christ’s kingdom. Jesus says that the widow who offered to God a mite made a greater impact for His kingdom than did those who gave several times more (Luke 21:1-4). The powerless saints who were sawed in half, beheaded, boiled in oil, and crucified, these are exemplified in Hebrews 11 as models of faith, and said to be the seed of the Church.
Those other means, based on worldly principles, of making an impact for Christ are most likely in fact cover-ups for establishing one’s own kingdom on earth. Christ’s kingdom is established through sacrifice, giving up, dying, which in the eyes of the world is inconsequential waste, but in the eyes of God, is a sweet smelling offering which He will bless for His own glory.
Then what of those believers who are already in the circle of power? How are they to respond to the points made above? With humility. And what of those believers who have the ability to enter the upper echelons of society? Do so with modesty or for your own soul’s sake not at all. And how should believers who are poor and powerless respond? With hope.
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-29