If a missionary receives contributions from churches and individuals in order to serve God as a full-time occupation, is it really necessary for that missionary to give a portion of his finances to other missionaries or Christian ministries?
I was recently asked this question by a friend.
My wife and I confronted this question years ago while attending seminary. We struggled with tight finances, and wondered if it wasn’t enough to use our money for our living needs since all our time and work were for God. As we talked with fellow students and prayed, we came to the conviction that we should tithe, even if the amount was small.
[By the way, I’m using the word “tithe” loosely here. Typically it refers to 10% of income. I’m using it in the sense of any portion of income, be it 3,8, or 20%.]
Giving to God of our finances is both a duty and privilege for every believer. Pastors and missionaries are still Christians. As such, we should, and can, give financially.
Giving to God of our finances is also a joy, and encourages others. I know several missionaries who are working hard to raise their financial support. I want the joy of joining their team of partners, and help them reach their goal of being fully supported.
I don’t know any missionaries who do not give to the Lord’s work. I don’t tell my teammates to do this because they come as committed Christians with a lifestyle of financial stewardship.
Should one of my financial supporters think it strange that I would support other missionaries? Does my tithing detract from their intent to help me? Or does my tithing multiply their gift by spreading it out?
What are your thoughts? What other questions about missions does this raise?
Have some believers rightly rejected the “prosperity gospel” only to embrace an equally dangerous lifestyle heresy?
I was reading about Barnabas, the missionary colleague alongside the apostle Paul, and was struck by the fact that Barnabas first appears in the Acts account as a generous donor toward the compassion ministry of the first church. As a land owner, Barnabas could have taken a fiscally justifiable approach and hung on to his asset (the land) so as to donate what profit the land produced. Instead, Barnabas sold the land and gave sacrificially. Further, he did not give on condition that his wishes would be respected, but laid his gift at the apostles feet, releasing control (Acts 4:37).
Here is what I conclude from watching Barnabas: The obedience that makes a cross-cultural missionary is the same obedience that makes a sacrificial giver. And sacrificial giving may be the entry point to the world of mission, as it was for Barnabas.
But I wonder if many of us have subconsciously concluded that God has asked us to give, not sacrificially, but moderately. Our evidence? Just look at the capacity God has given us to achieve and maintain our comfortable lifestyle. Are not my skills God-given? Did He not make my education possible? Did God not give me the opportunity to work and save? Surely the way of life I enjoy is what God wants me to maintain with a grateful heart.
Having rejected the prosperity gospel have we succumbed to a moderation gospel? Barnabas shows us that sacrificial giving stems from the same kind of obedience as leaving home on mission. Dependence on God’s supply did not begin when he and Saul left Antioch as the first missionaries (Acts 13:1-3). It started back home when he heard about the need to feed the poor, pulled out the title deed to his land and put it on the market.