I’ve been involved in some form of Christian, non-profit missions work since 1996, when I went on my first short-term trip. Since 2004, the title “missionary” has been my vocation, my livelihood. I have heard a lot of different opinions about how missionaries are meant to earn a living. Some is very helpful and Biblically sound, some merely a reflection of secular, cultural views.
It’s taken years to sift through all of the different viewpoints out there, and years to find the confidence to say, “Yes, this is the way that I will walk. And I am a workman worthy of my keep!” Because in reality, the Bible is full of multiple ways in which full-time ministers received the necessary funds to sustain themselves.
It’s true, Paul was a tent-maker. But not everyone was.
And it’s true, many well-known missionaries/ministers never asked anyone for a dime. But many did.
The key ingredient that we often forget when we discuss support-raising is that this support is raised by people, real people. And God calls different people to raise support in different ways.
Some are meant to be tent-makers. Some are meant to never tell a soul that they are in need and just trust God to supply. And others are meant to make their needs known and call people to join in the work. I’ve usually fallen into the last group. There’s been many times I’ve wished that God would just provide my every need without me having to make a peep, but that is not usually the way that He has led me.
In fact, I believe that some people in full-time ministry are constantly in lack because they are not willing to walk in the way that God is leading them to see His provision. (This is of course, not the only reason for lack.) It is very hard to ask people for money. But it is Biblical. It is also very hard to not ask people for money when you are in need and to simply trust that God will bring it in. That also is Biblical. It’s a matter of being willing to choose the way that God has called you to at that particular moment in your ministry, and rooting your obedience in a heart of trust.
And either way, God is ultimately the One supporting us. He can do it super-naturally or He can do it naturally. In reality, it’s all natural to Him. And God is the One who gives people the ability to earn money or make wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) anyways, so it’s all His. By giving to missions, people have a chance to sow into the work that God is doing around the world and be part of something that would otherwise be out of their reach simply because not all are able or called to be missionaries.
And in 1 Corinthians 9, the very chapter in which Paul says that he does not ask for any money, he actually solidifies the truth that God’s expectation is that the oxen would be able to eat while they thresh and the farmer able to partake of the crop that he himself planted and harvested. Verse 14 states, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who spread the Good News should earn their living from the Good News.”
Guarding Our Hearts
We must not allow our own culture or “norm” to dictate to us how we are going to follow God. Many people who are called to full-time ministry have chosen other paths due to this topic of fund-raising.
As an American with midwestern roots, the lifestyle of support-raising that I have adopted seems to go against the very grain of how I was raised. My family prides themselves on what they are able to accomplish with their own hands, and rightfully so. They are very hard workers. But neither “God helps those who help themselves” or “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” are Bible verses.
God does desire hard work. And He does expect us to pull our own weight. But He has also designed it so that we are a Body. We are in need of each other. His Kingdom does not value independence the way that ours does. In His Kingdom, everyone works hard to feed themselves and take care of those in need. In His Kingdom, some are called to be in the ministry arena and others in the business arena. Both are of equal value.
I think Peter Warren, leader of YWAM Denver says it well:
Living a lifestyle of complete dependence on God for financial provision is not a cop out. It’s not irresponsible or negligent, but a system that God Himself set up to provide for those in full-time ministry. If anything, it’s actually more biblical than receiving a salary for missions work because it links the giver in direct relationship with the ones he or she is supporting. The only consideration should be this: is this person a worthy workman? If so, then they are also deserving of financial support.
So whether you are the “goer” or you are the “sender” or you are a combination of both, we need to learn to look at support-raising through the filter of Jesus words, “It is better to give than to receive.”
I feel that almost nothing else tests my heart the way that money does. When things are tight financially, and God asks me to give, it is a test of my faith in Him, my willingness to trust that He will take care of me. Money reveals if my heart is fully reliant on God or if I have begun to rely on myself and the wealth… Click To Tweet
One day, we will live in a place where the roads are made of gold. We will have no need for money. But let us not have any regret when we enter that Day about where we invested our money (thus our hearts) during our time on earth.
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