HOUSMAIL HM#038 - MORE ABOUT "GIVING WITHOUT PAY"
20 Sept 1999
Following my earlier posting of HOUSMAIL HM#037 on this subject, some private correspondents have raised some valid points which touch on questions going beyond the main subject I was trying to cover. (which was "selling the Gospel")
I thought it worthwhile to condense some of that into a single general question which addresses the main points. _________________________________________________________________________
How about soliciting funds to support missionaries who preach, teach, heal and coordinate relief efforts overseas? Are not those who preach entitled to live of the gospel? I Cor.9:14
There is certainly specific Scriptural warrant for asking Christians to contribute to the relief of the CHRISTIAN poor. (1 Cor 8 & 9)
However it is worth emphasising that the example of Jesus is clearly NOT a warrant for establishing permanent Christian "soup kitchens", or other welfare agencies, for those who want only "loaves and fishes", without the Gospel. (John 6:26-27,66)
It is no more than simple common sense that those who give, might also need to find a way to oversee the distribution of what they give, and cover those costs as part of their giving. However that is NOT specifically discussed in what Paul says to the Corinthians!
I can't believe for a moment that Paul had anything in mind, which even remotely resembled things like huge real estate investments for office buildings in the high end of the market, or luxury cars, and first class airfares, and 5 star hotel accommodation for high powered executives! And his own example certainly isn't a "role model" for the operations of HUGE Christian relief empires, where overheads of the "best" consume about 20% of what is given, and in the "less than best" are sometimes so high that only about 20 cents in the dollar actually reaches those for whom it was given! _______________________________________________________________________________________
There is a similar warrant for encouraging BELIEVERS to support itinerant preachers who were travelling in the service of God. (3 John 5-6)
However this same passage specifically rejects the acceptance of donations towards that work, from UNBELIEVERS. And it is JOHN asking ..... not the workers themselves! The significant point is that what John says here, reinforces the command from Jesus for BELIEVERS to GIVE THE GOSPEL free of charge to unbelievers.
Paul does say that Jesus authorised those who preach the Gospel to live off the Gospel. (1 Cor 9:14) However what Jesus actually said about that, is found in Matthew 10:8,10 - "Give without pay"! And - "the laborer deserves his food"! And Luke 10:7 - "In the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house." (RSV)
It is worth remembering here that Luke travelled with Paul. It seems obvious that his Gospel records it as he must have heard it preached by Paul on many occasions. So when Paul says that Jesus authorised preachers to live off the Gospel, it reflects his own preaching that for Jesus, "living off the Gospel" meant no more than food and lodging!
HOWEVER PAUL ALSO SAYS THAT HE WENT OUT OF HIS WAY NOT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVEN THAT MUCH FROM THOSE TO WHOM HE PREACHED!
For instance he reminds the Corinthians that he did not take any support at all from them. (1 Cor 9:12) At Corinth he clearly followed Matt 10:8!
There he "worked with his own hands" as a tentmaker (1 Cor 4:12, Acts 18:3) and received support from BELIEVERS in other Churches (1 Cor 11:8) in order to make the Gospel FREE OF CHARGE. (1 Cor 9:18)
At Ephesus Paul refused to ask for money and clothes. (By the way, he called that coveting!) Instead he set an example by "ministering to his necessities with his own hands". (Acts 20:34)
At Thessalonica Paul did receive a gift from the Church at Philippi, for which his thanks are recorded in Phil 4:14-18. However that does NOT appear to have been his main support, for he reminds the Thessalonians that he "worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you, while we preached to you the gospel of God". (1 Thess 2:9)
All of these statements by Paul serve to reinforce the extent of the far reaching command from Jesus that, except for food and lodging (and in practice, NOT ALWAYS EVEN THAT!) the Gospel is to be given "without pay" from the hearers.
Alas ..... in our time the emphasis has been shifted almost completely away from Paul's EXAMPLE of how to "FREELY GIVE", to concentrate instead on the justification and mechanics of ensuring that Gospel workers are "being paid"! With some notable exceptions, most "Missionary Philosophy" today seems to concentrate much more on the necessities required to live in long term WESTERN comfort in a third world culture, rather than contemplating and committing to a potential early martyrdom!
And in too many places "tentmaking" has become almost completely a lost art! _________________________________________________________________________
Of course, if there was more of Paul's method and less of the modern alternative, it would probably result in far fewer candidates "hearing the call" to enter full time Christian work!
It might reduce the pool of aspirants who are sometimes used by leaders of Church organisations to build empires, rather than witness effectively for the Gospel. It might sort out a little better, the difference between those who are TRULY called, and those who are driven by their own ambition! And it would certainly ensure that many were never able to enter positions for which they were not truly qualified.
And for God, THAT wouldn't be a disaster at all!