Probably the hardest (and likely the last) part of the current revolution going on in the church as She finds Her way back to Her apostolic roots will be the subject of finances. The world-wide return of the church back to homes and mutual edification and participation did not really cost us too much. Some paid a higher price than others but for most of us it was a feeling of relief!
But I believe that to express what I call “apostolic stewardship” as found in the NT we will all pay a dear price.
Jesus spoke about finances a lot. Some theologians tell us He spoke more about money than He did sin. Actually, it is not stretching the truth to say that in Jesus’ mind there are only two battlefields: God or money.
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon”. Mtt 6
Jesus knew that where our treasures were, there our hearts would be also. He urged His followers to store up their treasures in Heaven and not to worry about tomorrow and what we will wear or eat. Even the lowly birds are fed by their Heavenly Father.
How simple yet how difficult.
When Jesus sent out His 12 apostles, He told them: “Take nothing for your journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” (Mark 6)
When the early church had experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost they were led to sell their “possessions and goods and give them to any who had need.” (Acts 2)
When Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer they were met by a man crippled from birth. The man expected alms from them but Peter declared they had none: “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give unto you: Walk! (Acts 3)
Take nothing with you. Sell your possessions. Give to the poor. Store up treasures in Heaven. What is Jesus after here???
When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough
There is a helpful axiom that says “If you only have a hammer in your toolbox, then every problem you encounter is a nail.” In the Western world we only have a checkbook in our toolbox, so all the problems we encounter require money. However, we desperately need rock solid, Biblical principles, put together by proven ministries over the course of many years.
For example, a principle provided for us by Glenn Penner from his excellent paper Dependency: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough is:
“When aid is needed, resources should be sought in as close of geographical proximity as possible.”
We in the global house church movement are sitting on a powder keg of finances that will be available to release into the kingdom of God to penetrate into the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist worlds.
The question is will be ready for the task? Let’s think BEFORE we act so as not to make the same old mistakes our “forefathers” did.
How Shall We Then Give?
The main principle that Maria and I hold to is this: the best giving is done by those living closest to the need.
We see this as the heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples: “They do not need to go away: you give them something to eat!” (Mtt 14) The disciples could only come up with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not too impressive with 5000 hungry mouths! But here is where we err, hoping to provide through our strength (financial might and sheer numbers) and not in the miracle working power of Jesus.
In actual fact, the disciples were quite slow to get the message of Jesus’ miraculous provision, as just a few days or weeks later they where faced with the task of feeding of the 4000: “Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?”
They had forgotten WHO is the real provider!
Could it be that because we don’t bring the miraculous to the mission field we end up bring the money?
Can I say it again: “those closest to the problem are best suited to find the answer”. That is a Starfish principle if I ever read one!!
Of course, there are times when the physical situation is so catastrophic that giving from far away is not only the right thing to do but also the best. (Think back to the Tsunami of 2004) In the NT we see that the churches Paul planted gave money to meet needs of the “mother church” in Jerusalem because of the famine. But this was a one-time deal it appears and not a steady practice.
Yours for the least in the kingdom,
PS. For further reading on dependency I highly recommend World Mission Associates.