I remember my first day in American Government class and the teacher's question, "What makes a person a productive citizen in America?" Although I was young and naive, I still wanted to know what made a citizen productive. The many different answers coming from the rest of the class ranged from economic duties – to civic duties – to personal duties. These characteristics of a citizen give the framework for a productive citizen.
A productive citizen will pay his taxes and generally support locally owned and operated companies to help build the nation's economy and production. The citizen would understand the value of the American dream by trying to achieve his own successes in life. Secondly, a productive citizen would understand his duty to regularly vote in local and national elections. He would take pride in this freedom and understand the cost for it in his life. Finally, a productive citizen would be willing to give his allegiance to the United States and take pride in being a citizen. He would not allow politicians and their political parties to separate him from these freedoms, but would defend his constitutional rights and be thankful for them in his lives. A productive citizen may even choose to join the military and ensure that these freedoms are granted to future generations both in the United States and in countries throughout the world.
The teacher summarized the answers to the class by saying that each of these qualities are essential to the success of our country. A citizenry that becomes complacent can allow these precious freedoms slip away and be replaced with bigger and stronger central government control. Therefore, it was necessary for us as young teenagers to grow into productive citizens, ensuring that this would not happen in our great nation.
It was not long after this class that I forgot about these three attributes and their proper place in my life as a citizen of America. But to my surprise, I find myself, by definition, to be productive citizen because I pay my taxes, I vote regularly, and I served in the military for six years and understand my personal duty to my country. The problem is that I did not see the direct correlation to my duties to God in the same manner. Just as we are blessed to be citizens of America, we are blessed even more to be called sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. As God’s sons and daughters, we are members of a greater kingdom and nation in Christ; one that does not have national boundaries and is not limited by population.
My duty to God is to give Him my very best in every facet of my life. He is the Provider of all my earthly blessings, and in my gratitude for those blessings I should be willing to give back to His work (1 Corinthians 16:2). The purpose of a congregation's treasury should not be to save money for interest on the judgement day, but to use it in proclaiming the gospel throughout the world. The treasury should be used to help those saints who are in need and have hit rough times in their lives. Even beyond our financial contributions to the local congregation, we may be able to help other needy individuals who fall outside of the scope of the authorized use of the church's treasury. We read in Galatians 6:10 - "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Therefore, we as individuals are called to help those who are saved and unsaved. We must be willing to open our pocket books and hearts to those surrounding us and who are hurting.
Secondly, my civic duty as a citizen of the Lord's kingdom is to be a active member in a local congregation. While we do not have monthly, quarterly, or yearly votes, we do have weekly meeting times to come together and study God's Word. It is extremely important for us to be active in our participation in our local congregation. We need to get to know the members with whom we attend, by spending time associating with each other outside the specific meeting times. Therefore, our homes should be open to hospitality by inviting others to share meals with our family. Another aspect of our civic duty in the church is to honor our elders and submit to their rule over us in the Lord. We are to humbly accept their leadership, because they are charged with leading the church toward heaven (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
The final aspect of being a productive citizen in the Lord's kingdom is to give of yourself in service to your King (Luke 14:27). He is the One that died for our sins; therefore, we should desire to give Him our very best in everything we do. We should be proud to be a Christian and be willing to suffer without shame for His name and kingdom (1 Peter 4:14). We should be willing to teach others the gospel either by example or study, because God has saved us from our sins. We should manifest the same love for this world that is displayed by God – "For God so loved the world" (John 3:16a). We should desire all men to be saved, because the Father "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). These tasks are only realized when we fully give ourselves over to the work that God has prepared for us to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10).
It is a wonderful blessing from God to be a citizen of the United States. I am thankful for the freedom that we have in America to serve God without fear of persecution and oppression, but also fully understand that these freedoms may not last forever. However, being a member of Christ’s kingdom is an even greater blessing and I need to make sure that I am living as a productive citizen in the church. I need to be certain that I am giving with a cheerful heart to the work in my local congregation. I need to be actively serving in my congregation in whatever role I can, and humbly submitting to my elders’ leadership. I need to be living faithfully according to my Father’s will and be willing to take His Word to this sin-sick and dying world. I need to be prepared for eternity, because it is always just one heartbeat away. No sweeter words will ever be heard than when Jesus says to us, "Well done, good and faith servant…, enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21)!