Jesus lived outside the economic system during his ministry years. He didn’t participate in the labour market, he didn’t own a home, and he moved from place to place, never staying anywhere for very long. He also lived outside the cultural system, alienating himself from his family and friends, withdrawing from routine participation in his hometown synagogue, and refusing to marry and have children, which would have been expected of him as the eldest son.
When you don’t participate in the economic or cultural systems within which you live and move, they have no power over you. The relevant authorities can’t fire you, they can’t unhouse you, they can’t dictate that you socialize with certain people, and they can’t force you to marry against your will. The world and all those who are in agreement with it essentially have no right to your consent, your presence, or your services. Their only claim on you is to demand that you pay some form of tax or custom when you enter an area or purchase something.
By choosing not to participate in the world’s systems, Jesus was silently declaring two things: 1) that he operated outside the systems, as he wasn’t in agreement with them, and 2) that neither the world’s systems nor the people in them had any power over him, unless he chose to let them have power.
Jesus’ silence was particularly thunderous during his trial. It was so unusual for a prisoner to remain silent in the face of death that Pontius Pilate openly wondered at it. He was impressed; he’d never encountered anyone with such extraordinary self-discipline. Jesus’ only words during the proceedings were to remind all those present that the only power they had over him was the power that God gave them, by Jesus’ permission. Without this permission, they would not have been able either to arrest him or try him.
As Jesus’ followers, we should either be living outside the world’s systems or preparing to live outside them. Note that living outside the world’s systems doesn’t mean you have to physically live outside of cities, towns or communities. You can live in Manhattan and still be outside the world’s systems, as the homeless people living on the streets of the lower east side can attest. Those in the upper echelons of the deep state also live outside the world’s systems. They delegate and authorize those who work within the systems, but they stand removed from them and are beyond the reach of worldly justice.
So, both those at the very bottom of the socioeconomic scale and those at the very top live and move outside the world’s systems, though in different ways. Followers of Jesus should also live outside the world’s systems, but not like the destitute homeless who beg for a living or the uber-rich who have sold their souls to attain their wealth. As Jesus’ followers, we live in the Kingdom, which overlays the world but isn’t controlled by it. That means we can freely move through the world, being provided for from its resources and not owing it anything beyond an occasional gold coin from a fish’s mouth. Think of how Jesus and his disciples moved through the farmer’s field, picking the corn when they were hungry, or how David and his men ate the altar bread that was meant only for the priests to eat. God provided for Jesus and his disciples and David and his men, permitting them even to violate religious rules and customs to get what they needed to survive.
My grandmother always used to say “the good Lord provides”. When you live in the Kingdom, you don’t have to participate in the world’s systems. God has put them there for you to use, as the need arises, but you don’t have to rely on them, you don’t have to contribute to them, and you aren’t controlled by them. You don’t have to make a big deal out of living outside the world’s systems; you just do it. Jesus didn’t make any grand announcement; he just separated himself from all worldly influence and worked from there. Nothing and no-one had any hold on him except God, which is how it should be for us as his followers. Jesus said not to swear any oaths or make any promises, and he might just as well have warned us not to sign any contracts, including lease, employment, and marriage agreements.
To serve God in his Kingdom means to be free of any obligations to the world and to those who are in the world. We should at all times be able to walk away from wherever we are and from whatever it is we’re doing without worrying about leaving anyone or anything behind. We should be living day-to-day (“sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”), ever mindful that we’re on God’s clock and our time could be up at any moment. It was crucial that the disciples leave their jobs and their families and their homes and their communities when they started to follow Jesus. In fact, it was the first order of business for each of them, after they got the call. Whatever defined them in their previous life, whatever ties bound them, whether business or personal, had to be cut. They had to walk away from ALL their obligations and make following Jesus their one and only focus. That’s why, as a born-again believer, you need to live and move outside the world’s systems. Otherwise, your mind may slip and slide back to worldly matters instead of remaining firmly on God.
Again, there’s no reason to make a grand announcement about choosing to remain silent. Jesus didn’t. Just cut your ties with the world. Owe nothing to anyone, beyond a day or two’s lodging. Sign no contracts. If you’re in a contract, get out of it. A contract is an oath, and we’ve been warned not to swear those. The aim is to live entirely outside the world’s systems so that you can’t be accused of agreeing with the sin the world condones. If you live within the world’s systems, contributing to them and participating in them, you are also contributing and participating in its sin by proxy.
Don’t do that.
We should be following Jesus in his silent rebuke of the world and its systems, just as we follow him in everything else. We need to cut our ties to everything and everyone who is not of the Kingdom, like Jesus and his early followers did. We need to keep it simple. Living in the Kingdom means always being ready to leave wherever we are – including the mortal realm itself – at a second’s notice.
This is a heads-up for someone reading this. If it’s you, please take it heart. There should be no difference between the way Jesus’ early followers lived and how you live. If there is a difference, you need to correct it.