Recently we came to another twist of this topic of giving money to others – what to do about giving to people who are involved with “missions” work. We’ve been assisting some people we know, and highly respect, who have chosen to live in other countries to work out the purposes and roles they believe God has given them for spreading the gospel. But something about supporting them financially was bothering me and felt inconsistent with the things God is teaching us.
A quick review: I believe that applying ourselves to work, ie. “a job”, is an important and godly part of life. It started in the garden (Adam), it’s been called one of God’s gifts in the book of Ecclesiastes (ch 5), and Paul warns that those who don’t work shouldn’t eat (2 Thess), and that Jesus’ followers should be “doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives” (Titus).
Now, when I came to see church businesses as a creation of man, soon to follow was reconsidering this whole idea that following Jesus can be a career path. Of course, it certainly is for many today, but it’s a concept that for many is getting unpacked, unraveled, and critically examined under the microscope of new testament simplicity and a passion for living by the Spirit of God. There are times in my life where I was supported by church businesses in either a full- or part-time capacity, and many other times when it was like a second job but without pay.
But there came a time when I found myself thrust by God out of hiding in professional church businesses to discover life as a participant in the mainstream of what most people in our communities are living, which includes working for a living. This started about 20 years ago, though I’ve had a few dabblings back in the pursuit of so-called “full-time Christian work” along the way. God has been my Counselor and Guide, which is really good, because I’m not very clever when it comes to careers. We have a Father that remembers we’re made of dust. I love to tell the details of this story, and will do so in another blog entry soon. It’s amazing to see what kindness God has shown me and my family in regards to work and career.
So, about missions work: My thought is that when we’re a follower of Jesus, wherever we are, we’re a “missionary” – meaning we have a mission to be fully alive in who Jesus is making us to be, and to be about the work of advancing his kingdom in our domain. I’ve come to believe that our highest aim is to find productive work, that is, to learn the way of faith and personal growth in providing for ourselves through creative work outlets according to the common understanding of “work” in the community where we live. By this we engage in our community such that our faith is essentially “on the line” and real, for all to see. And by this, Jesus gets to reveal himself through us to others (Eph 2, Jesus shows “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us…”)
In my study of what people did with money in the new testament, I come away with the sense that people mostly gave financial help to others who were in temporary times of need, not in the way of “full-time” support. To be consistent, this is what my wife and I have decided to do henceforth.