For thine is the kingdom…

by K.W. Leslie, 22 October 2020

Matthew 6.13.

At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, in both the well-known Book of Common Prayer version and the King James Version, it ends with this line:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

It comes from the Didache, an instruction manual for new Christians written in the first century. Yep, around the same time the New Testament was written. Its version of the Lord’s Prayer includes that line, whereas the oldest copies of Matthew do not. But because a lot of ancient Christians used the Didache to instruct new Christians, a lot of ’em were taught the Didache version of the Lord’s Prayer… and that last line gradually worked its way into ancient copies of Matthew. And from there into the Vulgate, the Textus Receptus, the Lutherbibel, the Geneva Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the King James Version.

So it’s not from the bible? No it actually is from the bible. But it’s from Daniel, not Jesus. Comes from this verse:

Daniel 7.14 KWL
The Ancient gave the Son authority, honor, and the kingdom,
and every people, nation, and language, who’ll bow to his authority.
His authority is permanent: It never passes away.
His kingdom can never be destroyed.

Jesus didn’t end his prayer with “Amen,” which quickly became a Christian custom, so the authors of the Didache wanted to include it. And while they were at it, a nice worshipful closing. ’Cause the Ancient of Days is gonna grant the Son his kingdom, and authority (i.e. power), and honor (i.e. glory), forever and ever. It’s all true, so there’s nothing at all wrong with saying and praying it.

But no, Jesus didn’t tell us to say it. So it’s optional.

So if you wanna get all literalist—and a little bit legalist—fine; pray the Lord’s Prayer without the added-on line. But it’s not gonna hurt you, at all, to say it. In fact it’s a useful reminder Jesus is coming back to establish his kingdom on earth—which’ll be awesome!—and he’s gonna have authority and honor, and his kingdom is gonna last a mighty long time… and even outlast the earth itself.

And hopefully the people who prefer the Book of Common Prayer version don’t clash with the KJV fans, because the KJV only has “for ever” instead of “forever and ever.” Y’all need to make accommodations for one another, instead of demanding uniformity. We’re all saying the Lord’s Prayer here; the intent, not the translation, is what matters.

They’re his. Not ours.

The other valid point of the last line is it’s a reminder these three things—the kingdom, the power, and the glory—really belong to Jesus. Not us, nor our favorite people, nor our favorite things. Jesus.

’Cause we Christians regularly get in the bad habit of defining other things as God’s kingdom. Like our families, our churches, our denomination, our country, or some other sphere of influence. The Romans grew to assume the Roman Empire was the kingdom, and were simply horrified when the Vandals successfully sacked Rome. Christians in the United States regularly assume we’re a “Christian nation”—not because we have a lot of Christians (although, gauging by fruit, it surely doesn’t look it), but because they actually imagine we’re the fetal form of what Jesus intends to establish. But really this is just civic idolatry. Because Jesus doesn’t control this nation. Would that he did! Because we do. And we ain’t Jesus.

Likewise we Christians are in the bad habit of trying to wield economic power, political power, military power, civic power, in Jesus’s name—but for our desires. Not for the goal of loving our neighbors, establishing justice, and doing good deeds. Usually it’s to fight the practices which annoy us most. Some might be legitimate sins, and to be fair they may legitimately need to be rooted out. But you can tell we’re not acting in Jesus’s power, because we tackle the problem all wrong, and make a hash of things. Jesus gets it right. We do not.

Likewise we Christians seek glory. Supposedly it’s so that, now that we have everybody’s attention, we can point ’em to Jesus. It’s why football players point to the sky after a touchdown: All credit to God, right? It’s why pop stars thank Jesus for their Grammy awards… which they sometimes win for writing some pretty nasty music. (Catchy, but icky.) Christian pop stars will claim it’s all about Jesus. But for the most part, it’s really because they’d much rather make a living playing music in front of crowds, than busing tables at Applebee’s on a Sunday afternoon when the restaurant fills up with an after-church crowd which doesn’t tip. The glory we pursue, benefits us way more than it does Jesus, because we haven’t yet learned how to serve him behind the scenes, and keep our good deeds private. You know, like he teaches.

In the hands of self-centered humans, the kingdom, the power, and the glory get corrupt and depraved. The only safe hands belong to Jesus. And when we add the last line to the Lord’s Prayer, and meditate on it, it should remind us of this. “I’m doing it for Jesus” doesn’t cut it. Because it’s hypocrisy. We’re really not. Let’s stop lying to ourselves, surrender these things to Jesus, and get out of his way.