So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, Ephesians 2:19 NASB
Fellow-citizens – This word is sumpolitai. You can see the combination of sum and polites – literally “together with a citizen.” It is also translated “fellow-workers.” That is important because this word does not simply mean that we are designated members of a class (citizens) without responsibility. God does not adopt us to some lazy aristocracy. The word is derived from a root meaning “to work with” or “to help.” There is a peculiar and wonderful balance here. It is the balance struck between the fatalist and the pragmatist. We can see this balance if we answer two questions. The first is this: “How is it possible that we can help God?” After all, God is all-powerful. He doesn’t really need us to do anything, does He? That means that nothing that I do can really help God since whatever I do He either already planned for me to do or He was just using me to do what He wanted. In the end, says this reasoning, God will take care of it all. That sort of thinking sends us down the road of fatalism – the “que sera, sera” logic of inactivity. I can sit back, comfortable in my citizenship in God’s kingdom, and let Him take care of everything. There are many people who claim to be fellow-citizens who apparently believe this. They are the ones whose hearts seem to be centered on “what’s it to me?” attitudes. Somewhere along life’s road we have probably met more than one of these. No wonder so many of us have trouble asking for help from someone else.
There is another side to this teeter-totter. It is the often-expressed Benjamin Franklin-ism “God helps those who help themselves.” This is the pragmatist. “If you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself,” is his motto. Self-reliance is his creed. More likely than not, we also know quite a few fellow-citizens who live this kind of life. They are also just as difficult to ask for help. They believe that God needs their special help to accomplish His work.
Both of these positions are false for the same reason. They are both ego centered. Whether I choose inaction or self-reliance, my choice is driven by my assessment, not His request. God invites me to be part of His plan. He expects me to respond. The Bible is full of fallen characters who thought either that God would do it all or that they had to do it all. The truth is far more wonderful. We should notice that working with and helping are community actions. If we are truly fellow-citizens, then we are hands and feet of the Almighty. We do His will because He asks. We are involved. We must be involved. That’s what it means to be sumpolitai. You cannot be a part of God’s family and intentionally separate yourself from others.
It is important to point out that “work with” and “help” are synonyms. Kingdom work is not the same as jobs and toil. Kingdom work is other-directed. It is blessing someone else through my efforts on God’s behalf. Apply that standard to your current occupation and see if what you do is fit for the Kingdom.
Topical Index: help, work, citizen, sumpolitai, Ephesians 2:19